Te Niwha hosted its annual Summit at Haere-Roa in Christchurch on Nov 14-15, 2023 featuring diverse sessions exploring the forefront of infectious diseases research and pandemic preparedness. Expert researchers, community, Iwi and agencies gathered to share and discuss pressing issues and opportunities for the research platform’s key research priority areas: Prevention, Surveillance, Diagnostics and Therapeutics.
The Summit opened with retiring Ngāi Tahu Chair, Lisa Tumahai on the local, regional and national Māori response within the recent pandemic. Sir Andrew Pollard of Oxford University addressed the delegates in a pre-recorded talk on international reflections of the recent pandemic, vaccine development and public health.
Sir Jerry Mataparae led a special presentation of Te Niwha Masters and Doctoral scholarships. The Lifting Future Leaders session featuring five students receiving scholarships set the tone across the Summit for the platform’s Mission: to ensure that Aotearoa New Zealand has world class research capability for emerging and current infectious diseases threats and pandemic preparedness.
A session featuring talks by Professor Gary Evans (Ferrier Research Instiutute), Dr Natalie Netzler (University of Auckland), Dr Colin McArthur (Medical Research Institute of New Zealand) and Dr Rebecca McKenzie (Malaghan Institute) focused on biomedical advances in diagnostics, therapeutics & vaccine development.
Rahui Papa, who also acted as the MC for the Summit, facilitated a workshop on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Relationships & Partnerships in Research. This interactive session aimed to unpack Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles in research and to gain insight to the importance of being engaged with whānau, marae, hapū and iwi to form authentic and enduring relationships and partnerships for research.
Speakers from government agencies spoke to and discussed interdisciplinary partnerships facilitating future pandemic preparedness. The panel included Professor Mike Bunce (Department of Conservation), Dr Emma Sumner (Ministry for Primary Industries), Bex Joslin (Ministry of Health) and Dr Fiona Callaghan (Ministry of Health).
In the final session of the summit, Te Niwha launched the report: “Likely Future Pandemic Agents and Scenarios: An epidemiological and public health framework”. This project was funded by Te Niwha, and a collaboration with the Public Health Agency. Project lead Dist. Professor Nigel French (Massey University), as well as members of the project team, Professor Michael Plank (University of Canterbury), Professor Jemma Geoghegan (University of Otago), Professor Michael Baker (University of Otago), Dr Fiona Callaghan (Ministry of Health) and Assoc. Professor Amanda Kvalsvig (University of Otago), presented their findings and discussed the implications. The full report is now available under Resources.
Alongside these talks and panel discussions, delegates had the opportunity to interact with poster presenters and to listen to over 30 short presentations on current research and plans for Te Niwha-funded research initiatives.