Migraine researcher awarded James Cook Fellowship

11 November 2016
Deborah Hay
Professor Deborah Hay

Migraine research at the University of Auckland has been given a major funding boost with the announcement of the James Cook Fellowship awarded to Professor Deborah Hay.

The Fellowship of $220,000 over two years follows Professor Hay’s Marsden Grant award of $810,000 over three years also announced this month.

Professor Hay is a leading pharmacology researcher in cellular proteins in the University’s School of Biological Sciences whose research focuses on a newly-discovered pain pathway for migraine.

Migraine attacks are suffered by millions of people worldwide, between 10%-20% of adults, and despite significant progress in treatment in recent years, an effective cure continues to elude scientists.

Latest research does show that those suffering from migraine have elevated levels of a pain-causing hormone called CGRP, or calcitonin gene-related peptide. New drugs in clinical trials have been developed that stop CGRP in its tracks, offering new hope for improved migraine treatments.

However while some patients respond extremely well in clinical trials to CGRP-blocking treatment, others experience no benefit and there are still major unresolved questions on whether these drugs will be safe in the long term.

Professor Hay’s research has discovered that CGRP has two cellular receptor targets, not one as was commonly believed. This means it may induce pain through more than one pathway. She has also identified the molecular blueprint of how CGRP triggers its receptors to become activated.

“Migraines are far worse than a bad headache, for many millions of people they are debilitating, affecting the entire physiology of a sufferer by not only causing severe head pain but also by altering vision and causing nausea,” Professor Hay says.

The James Cook Fellowship is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand to researchers considered leaders in their field who demonstrate that their work has achieved national and international recognition.

The Fellowship allows scientists to focus on their research for two years without the additional burden of teaching or administrative duties.


For more information contact:

Anne Beston
Media Relations Adviser,
University of Auckland.

Email: a.beston@auckland.ac.nz
Tel: +64 9 923 3258
Mobile: + 64 (0) 21 970 089