China Science and Technology Exchange Programme

16 November 2015, Cancer, International visits and visitors

Dr Taryn Osmond of our vaccine therapy group recently spent four weeks on attachment to Professor Pen Li's laboratory at Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, Chinese Academy of Sciences, as part of the Royal Society of New Zealand and China Science and Technology Exchange Programme. 

The programme first started in 2009 to encourage and facilitate greater understanding and development of research linkages between the two countries.  Each year ten Chinese researchers and ten New Zealanders spend time with counterparts to facilitate access to expertise in each country, and to extend cooperation in three priority research fields: Food Safety and Security, Non Communicable Disease and Water Research.

Taryn, a member of Associate Professor Ian Herman’s group, researches cancer immunology and its potential to stimulate and sustain the body’s own response against cancer.  While rates of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, continue to rise there is increased hope that immunology will eventually lead to safer, kinder and more targeted treatments. Cancer vaccines can be created from a patient’s own tumour cells, or from synthetic components made to look like a tumour. Taryn’s collaboration with colleagues in Guangzhou focused on variants of synthetic adjuvant-peptide vaccines which remove the expensive and time-consuming steps involved in preparing a personalised vaccine for each patient.

She says, “While we are still in the research phase this is a vital step in New Zealand creating off the shelf, rather than bespoke, cancer immunotherapies. As we discover more we are opening up new avenues to harness the power of a variety of cells for the fight against diseases like cancer. It was pleasure form work relationships with scientists who are just as passionate as we are here at the Malaghan Institute. Collaborations between institutes, both within New Zealand and around the world, are imperative for improved research to fight diseases such as cancer."

Taryn was also able to be a tourist in one of China’s most famous sites – the Forbidden City. “The mix of buildings dating back so far in history, alongside the most modern and striking architecture is pretty special but I know colleagues from China would find our country just as intriguing.”

Further collaboration is yet to be decided but the priority MBIE and the Royal Society gives to these exchanges means we could be welcoming Chinese colleagues in years to come.