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Malaghan Institute builds links for economic and health benefits: TV One Monday 23 February

23 February 2015

The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) has awarded Dr Elizabeth Forbes-Blom $400,000, over two years, as part of a joint New Zealand and Japan research programme investigating Functional Foods; the use of prebiotic and probiotic (synbiotic ) foods to strengthen the immune system.  TV One interviewed Liz on 23 February.  You can watch it HERE


Dr Elizabeth Forbes-Blom

Dr Forbes-Blom’s research at the Malaghan Institute centres on ‘Gut Immunology’ and the role a person’s gut microbiota has in mediating good health, and well as chronic inflammation and disease.

“We think gut bacteria play a crucial role right from the very start of life; in developing a strong life-long immune system.   Generation A – The Allergy Generation – has been born.  They are not mollycoddled or the product of over anxious parents. These kids are more likely to suffer from allergies, have more severe allergic reactions and they are less likely to grow out of them. We want to help them, and their parents.  I am looking forward to developing food and supplements to support maternal and infant health outcomes and prevent the development of allergic diseases.” says Dr Forbes-Blom.

“Japan has developed an advanced functional foods industry over thirty years and this MBIE investment represents a huge opportunity for us at the Malaghan Institute and for New Zealand’s economy.  Locally, prebiotics and probiotics are a growing market, but there is a huge gap in the international market for them with scientifically validated health claims.  I would love to deliver real help for New Zealanders suffering with allergies, and be in a place to offer these products to the rest of the world.”

Professor Graham Le Gros, Director of the Malaghan Institute echoes that sentiment, "We’ve been part of Wellington for almost fifty years and our goal has remained constant: to develop better treatments for New Zealanders suffering from diseases like cancer, asthma and allergic diseases.  Last year we patented a vaccine that cures asthma in mice and we hope to deliver this as a treatment for people who suffer from asthma, within five years.”

“We have a vision to build a vibrant medical research hub for the benefit of all New Zealanders and we will continue to build new partnerships with other organisations to achieve it.  Our determined goal is to be the Mayo Clinic of the South Pacific.”

Economic Outcomes for New Zealand

New Zealand has one of the highest prevalence rates of allergic disease in the developed world, affecting up to 20% of the population - mainly young people of working age and their children.  The total cost each year for those with allergies is estimated to be over $8 billion.

The Asia Pacific food and beverage market is one of the fastest growing globally, and is projected to be a key economic driver, over the next few years, as demand is expected to surpass the combined demand of North America and Europe.  The opportunity for New Zealand to benefit from the manufacture and export of pre- and probiotics is large, profitable and destined to be long lasting for those who can enter the market, with scientific and clinical trials to validate health claims.