Otago research attracts $18 million in grants

Prof Dave Grattan (left), Dr Colin Brown and Dr Victoria Scott, of the University of Otago Centre...
Prof Dave Grattan (left), Dr Colin Brown and Dr Victoria Scott, of the University of Otago Centre for Neuroendocrinology. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Research that could help reduce excessive weight gain by women during pregnancy is among University of Otago study projects boosted by more than $18 million in an "outstanding" Marsden Fund round.

For the fifth year in a row, Otago University has gained more Marsden research funding than any other institution in New Zealand.

Of the 25 Otago research projects funded, Prof Harlene Hayne, the university deputy vice-chancellor, research, said: "Otago's continued success in this extremely competitive funding environment is a good indicator of the high calibre of our research programmes."

Otago University gained about 27% of the record $66 million available in the latest round of the fund, which supports curiosity-driven, basic research.

The Otago outcome was up from the $13.8 million (25.5%) gained last year.

Auckland University received about $12.5 million (19%) this year.

Otago University physiologist Dr Colin Brown and Prof Dave Grattan, of the anatomy and structural biology department, are principal investigators in a project that has gained $820,000 in Marsden funding over three years, and which focuses on the potential prevention of pregnancy-induced obesity.

"It's exciting. It's something we've been wanting to do for a long time," Prof Grattan said.

Dr Brown said the funding would enable Dr Victoria Scott to be employed as a research fellow and quicken the pace of the research at the university Centre for Neuroendocrinology.

Excessive weight gain during pregnancy had become a problem for women and could be harmful to both mother and fetus, he said.

During pregnancy, women laid down stores of fat in preparation for the demand breast-feeding would place on them.

Food intake was increased early, driven by high hormone levels.

The study will investigate whether the weight gain is due to the interaction of two reproductive hormones.

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