Liggins Institute progress celebrated in new premises

03 December 2013

The international reputation of the Liggins Institute was celebrated at its official opening in new premises at the University of Auckland on Friday.

A large audience gathered at the University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Science for the opening ceremony and community health panel discussions with invited speakers.

A plaque was unveiled by Minister Steven Joyce in his capacity as Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment.

The Liggins Institute moved into new offices in the Faculty building last year, bringing it under the same roof as many of the University’s other medical research collaborations.

At the opening, the Institute’s founding director Professor Sir Peter Gluckman outlined progress since it began in 2001, to become the leading institution in the world for research into the developmental origins of health and disease.

“The Institute is at the conceptual and clinical cutting edge of this research,” he said.  “It is unique because it takes a multi-disciplinary approach to how things that happen in early life - from as early as conception - impact on the fetus, during childhood, adolescence and later in life.”

He said the Institute engaged in collaborations across the sciences from mathematics to biology, and from economics to philosophy, to look at the different dimensions of this question.

“The Institute generated the first spin-out company from a New Zealand university and has developed a strong outreach into the community on important questions, particularly via the Liggins Education Network for Science,” said Professor Gluckman.

The Institute’s researchers had always worked with other scientists around the world and it was at the centre of investigation into the interplay of genes, environment and the developmental component, he said.

University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon said at the opening, that the University had established two large scale research institutes with the intention of creating world-class research centres of the highest international standing.

“The Liggins Institute was the first such institute we established and it was something of an experiment, but it is a tribute to the tenacity and innovation of its directors and staff that it is flourishing 12 years on.”

“It is an internationally recognised brand and a dominant player in generating research data that has brought acceptance to the once controversial theory that many adult diseases have their origins during early life development,” he said.

The Institute’s high international standing was in part due to the consistently high profiles of its’ research leaders who, despite commitments beyond the Institute, had built international networks and contributed to global agencies and programmes while maintaining significant academic outputs, said Professor McCutcheon.  He made particular mention of the founding director Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, the director Professor Wayne Cutfield, and research leader Distinguished Professor Jane Harding.

“The Institute has been very good at realising the advantages of collaboration, incorporating multi-disciplinary approaches, and forging alliances with leading New Zealand organisations in biotech, agriculture and medical sectors, as well  as highly ranked universities and research organisations on every continent,” he said.

“At the same time it has not waivered substantially from the primary research focus on maternal, fetal and child health.”

Despite the often precarious funding environment, the Institute had shown itself to be a survivor and added considerably to the University’s standing, said Professor McCutcheon.

“The new location on the redeveloped Grafton Campus represents a $240 million investment by the University of Auckland in the infrastructure required to support world-class biomedical and clinical research and teaching into the 21st century,” he said. “It also enhances collaborations between the Institute, the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and hospital staff. Both of these provide the support necessary for the Institute’s continued growth and international reputation.”


For more information contact:

Suzi PhillipsMedia Relations Advisor
Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
The University of Auckland
Phone +64 9 923 7383 or Mob 021416396