“It is a privilege to work alongside such passionate and gifted people. Swee and his colleagues are very capable and committed; I’m fortunate to be part of a team that is so focussed on achieving its aspirations.”
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The Gillies McIndoe Research Institute is pleased to welcome Alice Chibnall to the team.
Alice joined us after completing her Masters of Science degree in biological science, in which she was awarded first class Honours by the University of Waikato.
All of us at the GMRI, and our supporters and collaborators, are delighted that our Founder and Executive Director, Dr Swee Tan, has recently been the recipient of a prestigious Kea 2015 World Class New Zealand Award.
Professor Reg Marsh’s approach to ‘winding down’ in his later years is different than most – he spends his time volunteering as a biostatistician at the GMRI.
It’s not surprising, though, given the impressive 53 year career under his belt.
“I just want to do work that is interesting, and may be helpful to a wider part of the community,” he says.
Life would definitely be dull without a challenge, says the newly appointed Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of the GMRI, Dr Tinte Itinteang.
Dr Itinteang has taken on the CSO role, succeeding Dr Paul Davis, who has stepped down from the acting role, but still remains active in the GMRI as a Senior Research Fellow.
“The aim from my very first meeting with Swee 16 years ago was to set up a research institute. There have been highs and lows along the way, but we’ve finally achieved what we set out to do.”
So says Dr Paul Davis, who is stepping down as the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute’s Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) after filling the acting role for two years.
Rod Evans explains why the Evans family remain long-term supporters of the GMRI
The Evans family’s relationship with the GMRI began around 15 years ago when Dr Swee Tan performed an operation on Nola Evans, my mother, replacing a cancerous jawbone with part of her hipbone. The operation proved very successful and the family, like many others, is forever indebted to Swee.
The Minister of Health, The Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, visited the GMRI premises in Newtown, Wellington, in late March at the invitation of the Founder and Executive Director, Dr Swee Tan.
“We were pleased to have an opportunity to brief the Minister on our aspirations and our discoveries to date,” Dr Tan said.
We invite you all to visit the GMRI’s new website.
The GMRI has developed a new website to better showcase its ground-breaking research and to engage on a more personal level with supporters who want to stay abreast of progress.
Chair, Paul Baines, says the website better positions the GMRI’s research focus and tells more of the story behind the Institute’s approach to research into cancer, fibrotic conditions, vascular birthmarks and regenerative medicine, based on the role of stem cells.
“Swee and his team at the GMRI are doing some remarkable work based on concepts that international experts consider to be ground-breaking.
“It’s important that our supporters feel they can engage with what the GMRI is doing, can stay abreast of developments and feel part of the journey.”
Rotary clubs in New Zealand and Australia are being urged to actively support the GMRI.
GMRI Founder and Executive Director, Dr Swee Tan, has a long association with Rotary in New Zealand.
In addition to his work with the GMRI, Swee has provided surgical services for free to the Rotary Overseas Medical Aid Corps (ROMAC).
He was made a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow in 2008 and was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Rotary International Institute conference in Wellington.
The past Governor of District 9940 and the organiser of that conference, Pat Waite, says Swee’s keynote presentation was rated the best by conference delegates.
“Over 80 percent of those surveyed noted Swee’s presentation exceeded expectations, a remarkable result,” Pat says.
Not many people can say they are involved in changing the way cancer is treated – so Sophie de Jong considers herself lucky to be part of that process.
Sophie, a Research Nurse, works at the GMRI, experiencing what she considers to be the “other side” of the profession.
“It’s an interesting challenge, being on the other side and dealing with science and research, rather than dealing directly with patients in a hospital,” Sophie says.
“It’s also extremely exciting, being involved with such ground-breaking work.”
“The GMRI has an absolutely inspiring story to tell, and I’m privileged to be part of it,” says Jane Parker, a GMRI board member and passionate advocate.
Jane is a lawyer at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, specialising in commercial law and projects with a focus on technology, contracting, intellectual property and governance.
Having done some pro bono work for the GMRI in the past, she was asked to join the board after another lawyer left.
Jane was “delighted” when Swee Tan asked if she was interested in filling the position.
“It was a great moment for me, personally and professionally,” she says.
“After my previous involvement with the Institute, I was very happy to join as it fits my personal values. Their goal is to reduce people’s suffering – how do you fault that?
One of New Zealand’s leading investment bankers hopes to raise as much as $10 million to boost the GMRI’s research efforts.
Rob Cameron, who heads Cameron Partners, is one of this country’s most highly-regarded capital markets practitioners.
His remarkable track record includes chairing the Government’s Capital Markets Development Task Force, and assisting the birth of the Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund and the Government’s partial privatisation programme.
Made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s honours list, Rob is now working closely with the GMRI on a novel philanthropic fund raising programme using capital markets techniques.
“The Gillies McIndoe Research Institute’s dream to use its knowledge about strawberry birthmarks to help destroy cancer is extremely powerful. And the co-location adjacent to Wellington Hospital recognises the enormous synergies possible when health science and research work together. The opportunities are indeed limitless.”
That’s the message from former Health Minister, The Hon Tony Ryall, who visited the GMRI with his family just before Christmas.
“It was really a great pleasure to visit with Swee Tan and the team to celebrate their first birthday on site,” Tony says.
One of New Zealand’s best known philanthropists is “terribly impressed” with the young students who have completed this year’s summer student programme at the GMRI.
Lady Deane visited the GMRI in late January to present certificates to the summer students who, she says, “should all be Young New Zealanders of the Year, they are so impressive”.
“These students are very excited about what they have achieved and learned over the summer break while being mentored at the GMRI.”
The programme allows the students to undertake projects at the GMRI, under the supervision and guidance of Dr Tan and his colleagues, from early November until the end of January, when they return to university studies.
The Johnsonville Lions Club has selected the GMRI as the focus for the Club’s 2015 fund raising campaign.
Club member and former president, Jim Ng, says the Club undertakes year-long funding campaigns for ‘worthy causes’.
“The GMRI certainly falls into that category,” Jim says.
“They are doing things totally differently and they deserve our support.”
The Club selected the GMRI after visiting the facility in Newtown late last year and receiving a presentation from Dr Tan.
“Our members get a lot of satisfaction from raising money for organisations that make a difference,” Jim says.
In 2013, New Zealand Community Trust (NZCT) acknowledged the value of the GMRI’s work by entering into a three year funding arrangement with the GMRI.
There are two reasons this is significant – medical research is not NZCT’s typical funding space and NZCT only makes multi-year grants in exceptional circumstances. Chief Executive, Mike Knell, explains why the trust chose to support GMRI.
“NZCT is the largest funder of amateur sport in New Zealand with more than 80% of the $40 million we distribute annually going to sports organisations,” Mike says.
Therese Featherston is about to turn 18. This year she’s off to Auckland University to study biomedical sciences. She wants to be a doctor and to develop a career in medical science research.
Last year she was placed first in the Year 11-13 class of the NIWA Wellington Regional Science and Technology Fair, and she received the Genesis Energy Leadership Award after participating in the Realise The Dream National Science Fair, which is supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand.
It’s not just Gillies McIndoe Research Institute supporters who acknowledge the wonderful work of our founder and executive director, Dr Swee Tan – he’s now been publicly recognised by the prestigious annual Wellingtonian of the Year Awards.
Dr Tan was recently named as the winner of the 2014 Wellingtonian of the Year Awards’ Science and Technology category and was described as being “greatly respected by the international medical and science community and his patients and their families for his pioneering work in vascular birthmarks and cancer”.
Swee Tan wins Medicines New Zealand Award for research
Dr Swee Tan has scooped the Medicines New Zealand 2014 Value of Medicines Award for his outstanding work treating newborn babies suffering from disfiguring and life-threatening strawberry birthmarks.
Medicines New Zealand’s $20,000 award aims to stimulate research and advance understanding, effectiveness or safety of the use of medicines or vaccines. Work nominated for the award must be of direct relevance to the current or future provision of healthcare in New Zealand.
The GMRI has established a new health partnership with the Wairarapa, Hutt Valley, and Capital & Coast DHBs in a move that will translate laboratory research into radically improved treatment of diseases, including cancer.
The DHBs have signed a formal memorandum of understanding with the GMRI to promote close interchange, collaboration and sharing of ideas between leading DHB clinicians and the GMRI’s scientists.
“With persistence and the right environment, more effective treatment of many conditions can be found in the future,” Dr Swee Tan says.
Parents of babies with strawberry birthmarks could have Cherise Tan to thank for making their children’s treatment safer.
A fourth year medical student at the University of Otago, Wellington, Cherise (22), has recently published her research in the prestigious Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Cherise’s article presents the results of using a low-dose propranolol regime for the treatment of strawberry birthmarks.
There must be something in the water at the GMRI – Frederica Steiner is the second summer student to have the research she conducted at the Institute recently published in prestigious medical journals.
Frederica (23) is in her final year studying medicine at the University of Otago, Wellington.
She has had two papers published, one in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery and the other in the ANZ Journal of Surgery.
Her papers assess the effects of treating venous malformation (VM), a type of vascular birthmark, with alcohol injections or surgery.
GMRI research student Ranui Baillie has won the top award at the Tri-Society Head and Neck Oncology Meeting recently held in Darwin.
GMRI Executive Director, Dr Swee Tan, who was a two-term President of the Australian Head and Neck Cancer Society, was at the prestigious international meeting and heard Ranui’s presentation of her work on cancer stem cells in tongue cancer.
The GMRI Tissue Bank, established early last year, is hugely important for research purposes and will lead to more effective future treatments for patients, according to Governance Committee member, Dr Stuart Johnson.
Dr Johnson is also the Head of the Pathology Department at Hutt Hospital, which performs the initial processing of much of the Tissue Bank tissue samples.
Former cancer patient and ardent supporter of the GMRI, Nick White, has celebrated being alive for five more years by racing to the top of Japan’s Mt Fuji. The climb took him 4 hours and 45 minutes. The gruelling Mt Fuji Summit Race is held annually and only 50 overseas athletes are allowed to enter. “The experience was as difficult as it was satisfying. It still hasn’t really sunk in that I actually got to the top!” Nick says.
GMRI scientist Dr Tinte Itinteang recently presented four papers at the 20th International Workshop of the International Society for the Study of Vascular Anomalies, held in Melbourne this year.
“This biennial international conference brings together the world’s leading researchers and clinicians in a single venue for the latest updates in scientific discoveries and new treatments for vascular birthmarks,” says Dr Itinteang.
On behalf of everyone associated with the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute, I would like to congratulate our executive director, Dr Swee Tan, who was honoured last week by being named the 2014 Inspire Wellington Ambassador.
The Award is presented by the Wellington City Council as part of the Wellington Gold Awards that recognise and celebrate Wellington’s finest.
The Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI) has contributed a chapter to the most authoritative reference collection of expert articles ever put together on ACE inhibitors.
“The GMRI was invited last year to contribute a chapter to the two-volume book on the state-of-the-art of ACE inhibitors,” says Dr Swee Tan.
The GMRI is not working alone on its ground-breaking research – we are collaborating with other reputable organisations and expanding collaboration with a number of others nationally and internationally.
For example, the GMRI is currently collaborating with members of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Otago in Dunedin on cutting-edge research.
The new GMRI premises currently host nine research staff, six honorary research associates and two research students on scholarships, and an executive assistant.
The two research students, Ranui Baillie and Lucy Sulzberger, were part of a group of five summer students working at the GMRI last summer.
New GMRI Board member, Dr Virginia Hope, has just been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to health.
The Queen’s Birthday honour recipient was invited to join the board of the GMRI earlier this year as a representative of the Hutt Valley DHB and Capital & Coast DHB.
A well-attended official opening celebration of the new Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI) was held at Parliament in early December and the people working at the new premises in Newtown are now settling in.
The GMRI’s new laboratory and associated facilities were officially opened by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. John Key, and the occasion was hosted by the Hon. Tony Ryall, Minister of Health. The Prime Minister also unveiled a commemorative plaque which is now in the GMRI foyer.
Dr Swee Tan and his team at the GMRI have achieved remarkable success in advancing knowledge relating to strawberry birthmarks and other tumours. This work has the potential to lead to fundamental advances in the understanding and treatment of cancer.
Our scientists are committed to building on the important, internationally-recognised progress they have made to date. It is an exciting journey, made possible, in large part, due to the support and involvement of many people and organisations.