Business focus for Fulbright science scholar

25 July 2013

Business and science are twin passions for 2013 Fulbright scholarship winner Graeme Fielder.

Following the completion of his PhD in biomedical science, in August he is off to Stanford University in California to study for a two-year MBA.

Caption:Graeme Fielder Graeme was awarded the 2013 Fulbright-Platinum Triangle Award in Business. This award is for an emerging New Zealand business leader to complete a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at a US institution and gain professional work experience in the US and New Zealand. One award, valued at up to US$75,000 plus a paid internship, is offered each year.

He was previously awarded a University of Auckland doctoral scholarship in 2010 and a FMHS Health Sciences Summer Research Scholarship, and has also had several successes in the Spark entrepreneurial challenge.

During his time at The University of Auckland, Graeme studied at the Liggins Institute as a member of the Breast Cancer Research team led by Professor Peter Lobie.  He completed a Bachelor of Technology in Biotechnology with first class honours and stayed on to complete his PhD.

Graeme’s research investigated the role of growth factors in endocrine dependent cancers, particularly breast cancer.  His PhD was supervised by both Professor Lobie (now based at the National University of Singapore) and Dr Dong Xiu Liu from the Liggins Institute.

“My colleagues and I investigated a family of genes referred to as ‘neurotrophic factors’ to see if they have a role in initiating and or progressing carcinomas.”

Graeme’s particular interest was in the gene Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF).

“Whilst it was originally discovered as an important molecule in neuronal and kidney tissue, its role in oncogenesis, along with other family members like Artemin, is becoming increasingly apparent,” he says.

“Inappropriate activation of such factors is a cornerstone of cancer development and through my work we saw GDNF was able to modulate the migratory ability of carcinoma cells,” says Graeme. “Given the movement of cancer cells from the primary tumour to other tissues is a critical facet of tumour progression this observation was therapeutically relevant.”

Graeme hopes that the MBA from Stanford University will give him the skills and knowledge to pursue his passion – working in the areas of both business and science.  He intends to return to New Zealand after the two year programme and use both his science background and new business experience to pursue his own bioscience venture here.

“Early in my academic training I was attracted to the fusion of business and science. Taking science developed at the lab bench to a market application, whether it’s a new drug, or a new diagnostic test,” he says. “And it’s great to have been at Auckland University where they foster this cross faculty development of students with such an interest.”

While studying for his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, he also played a pivotal role in developing the University’s entrepreneurial environment through the Spark and Chiasma organisations, both taking part and running it, and helping postgraduate students and  staff  to get involved in entrepreneurship.

More recently he has been working as a business development manager with Plant and Food Research in Mt Albert in food innovation, bringing new foods and food ingredients to market for the New Zealand food industry.

He enjoyed working in the space of both science innovation and business management and looks forward to doing this with his own venture in future.

For more information contact:

Suzi Phillips , Media Relations Advisor, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Communications, The University of Auckland. Email: s.phillips@auckland.ac.nz Phone: +64 9 373 7599 ext 87383 or Mob 021416396