Babies and Parkinson’s sufferers benefit from $2 million gift

A generous gift of $2 million from the Hugo Charitable Trust has been given to the University of Auckland to conduct research into growth restriction in babies and to help those with Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Daniel McCormick

Maryanne Green, the eldest daughter of Irish philanthropist and businessman the late Hugh Green - known in Ireland as Hugo, founded the Hugo Charitable Trust last year to continue Hugh’s philanthropic legacy and to give back to the people of New Zealand. Maryanne worked closely at Hugh’s side for over 25 years where she developed a deep understanding of Hugh’s philanthropic priorities and wishes.

“Hugh loved Ireland and New Zealand equally and he believed passionately that education was the key to a better New Zealand,” she said. “The Hugo Charitable Trust is committed to honouring Hugh’s life work and building on his legacy for the future benefit of New Zealand with new ideas, new ways and new directions for the future.”

The Hugo Charitable Trust has committed $1 million each to the Liggins Institute and the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI) at the University of Auckland to fund a research cluster comprising an emerging researcher, two PhD students, and research support over four years.

At the Liggins Institute, Associate Professor Katie Groom will lead a research cluster focusing on understanding the causes of preterm birth and fetal growth restriction.

Associate Professor Groom – a world leader in the area of diagnosis and therapy for growth-restricted babies – will undertake research into approaches to decrease preterm birth and into the best management of women who are at risk of it. She is also undertaking research into potential new therapies to promote growth of babies, including the use of sildenafil citrate (also known as Viagra) to improve blood flow to the placenta.

The significant impact we are already making in areas that can affect the whole world are only possible through philanthropic support of individuals and organisations that have that same commitment.

Vice Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon

At the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI), Dr Daniel McCormick will carry out research into the new field of optogenetics, which uses light to manipulate neural activities in conditions where stimulation is required. It offers the prospect of treating life-time conditions such as Parkinson’s disease with a wireless implantable device. Dr McCormick’s team is assessing the viability of using custom-made wireless LED implantable devices to measure individual cellular response to light.

University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, said that the University is dependent on the support of donors and philanthropists to enable it to continue with the world class research for which it is renowned.

“We need benefactors like the Hugo Charitable Trust. Without them we do not have the level of funding to keep the University world-class and delivering on our commitment not only to be New Zealand’s pre-eminent research-led institution, but one that makes a sustained contribution to global issues.

“The significant impact we are already making in areas that can affect the whole world are only possible through philanthropic support of individuals and organisations that have that same commitment,” he said.

The Vice-Chancellor says the research being funded by the donation is well-aligned with the aims of the University of Auckland Campaign For All Our Futures. This was established to support the University’s drive to address some the most complex issues facing the world.

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