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Kia Niwha Leader Fellowship for Malaghan vaccine researcher

6 May 2024

Malaghan Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Theresa Pankhurst has been awarded one of Te Niwha’s Kia Niwha Leader Fellowships to support her research into vaccines for the ageing immune system.

Dr Pankhurst, who is currently seconded to the Babraham Institute in the United Kingdom as Malaghan Te Urungi Churchill College By-Fellow, has spent the last year working on vaccine development in the Linterman Laboratory. She says the fellowship, which will extend her time at the Babraham, will strengthen research partnerships between the Babraham and Malaghan, to ultimately help improve health outcomes for older people across New Zealand.

“I am absolutely thrilled to have been awarded this fellowship for many reasons,” says Dr Pankhurst. “The first is that it aligns perfectly with our mahi that ties together the Malaghan and Babraham institutes, and will strengthen our research partnership to prioritise health outcomes for older people in Aotearoa who are at increased risk of harm from infectious disease threats.

“The second reason is the intensive leadership wānanga, where I will have the unique opportunity to learn from a range of incredible experts in Te Ao Māori and Te Ao Pākehā, who have played pivotal roles in Aotearoa’s pandemic response.”

The Kia Niwha Leader Fellowship is provided by the Infectious Diseases Research Platform Te Niwha. Te Niwha’s Vision is to ensure New Zealand has world-class capabilities in the fight against infectious diseases. The one-year fellowship will allow Dr Pankhurst to further improve and develop her research collaboration on improving vaccine response outcomes in ageing immune systems.

“This collaboration brings together the fundamental biology of the germinal centre response in ageing that we’ve developed at the Babraham Institute, with the Malaghan Institute’s mRNA vaccine development platform,” says Dr Michelle Linterman, who heads the Linterman Laboratory. “Our combined expertise puts us in a unique position to make and test new mRNA vaccines that we hope will rejuvenate the ageing immune system and promote health in the later years of life.”

“Together the Kia Niwha Fellowship will deliver important vaccine research to protect our most vulnerable, and uplift myself as a future leader with crucial training and support within Te Niwha’s unified, interdisciplinary team of experts,” says Dr Pankhurst.