International coverage for a Wellington medical breakthrough

12 January 2015, Cancer

One of the world’s largest dedicated  science websites – IFL Science – featured the Malaghan Institute-led discovery this weekend; “World First: Scientists Observe DNA Shuttling Between Cells, Triggering Tumor Growth”.  The cellular biology breakthrough demonstrated mitochondrial DNA movement between cells, and could open up new research fields where scientists attempt to replace faulty, disease-causing mitochondrial DNA with custom synthetic DNA.

Professor Mike Berridge, the Malaghan Institute’s Cancer Cell Biology Group Leader led a team with Professor Jiri Neuzil of Griffith University in Queensland Australia.  He said, “I am hugely encouraged by this recognition by the international community, and hope it can lead to further development of our work here in New Zealand.  The ultimate goal of cancer research is to stop the suffering many people experience with this disease, but cellular research often surprises.  It may be that this new understanding offers future treatments for some of the many other debilitating diseases caused by defective mitochondria.

Malaghan Institute Director Graham Le Gros, “I am delighted to see this Wellington (New Zealand)-led research excite the international research community.  Basic research is the key to breakthroughs; it is work that requires great patience and yet it can be hard to attract funding.  The Malaghan Institute has been on the map as an international medical research facility for a few decades now, but this interest comes at a time when we are preparing to bring a viable health treatment to market.”

The Malaghan Institute patented a novel vaccine therapy last year which cures asthma in mice, although a human application of that breakthrough may be 5 years away.

Professor Le Gros credits scientific excellence combined with a Kiwi-can attitude to the Institute’s success.  “Our scientists are motivated to improve the health of New Zealanders more than anything; and we are very grateful for the support of the Health Research Council and our other generous supporters who keep the faith with us.  We also want to popularise science to encourage the next generation of Kiwi scientists to advance medical innovation.  New Zealand is a nation of curious minds and we want to play our part in engaging more Kiwis with medical research.  It’s lovely to deliver good news, and it’s just the right start to 2015 for my staff.”

Media Note

Elise Andrews started the ‘I F***ing love Science’ Facebook page in March 2012 out of frustration that science was ‘unloved’ by a friend who asked her to stop posting science stories on Facebook.  In its relatively short operating history IFL Science has become the leading destination for engaging and

thought-provoking science content, with 45 million unique monthly visitors and 150 million page views.

As a result of the IFL Science coverage, the Malaghan Institute has experienced a 1200% increase in web traffic, especially from America, Canada and Australia.