Funding to explore methamphetamine impact on pregnant women and whānau

Research aiming to reduce the effects of methamphetamine on women, babies and young children is one of two Victoria University of Wellington projects which together have received over $2 million in funding from the Health Research Council (HRC).

Professor Bev Lawton and her research team from the Faculty of Health are working in partnership with Ngāti Pāhauwera to better understand the impact of maternal methamphetamine use in the Wairoa community. She says the partnership will take a strength-based approach—which builds on the resilience of the research subjects—and researchers will work alongside the iwi to design strategies to raise awareness of the harm methamphetamine causes for pregnant women, their babies and young children, and reduce that harm in the community and for the next generation.

“We have an existing partnership with Ngāti Pāhauwera in the area of maternal and child health research,” says Professor Lawton. “Methamphetamine use and its potential harm for whānau is a big area of concern for them and they are looking for community-led solutions that support whānau wellbeing.

“As with our existing partnership, it’s important that we support Ngāti Pāhauwera in areas they prioritise and continue to work in close collaboration with the Wairoa community,” Professor Lawton says.

“Using this model, the partnership also hopes to develop solutions that will be of value to other communities facing similar issues. This is a challenging issue and it’s not easy mahi.”

Iwi kaumātua Matthew Bennett says, “Any hikoi always starts before it starts. Let’s prepare well for those initial steps in this important project. Important because we know we go into headwinds, crosswinds, as well as downwinds in this project. Kia kaha.”

In the second newly-funded HRC project, Professor Emily Parker and Dr Scott Cameron from the Ferrier Research Institute are investigating new ways of countering antimicrobial resistance to current antibiotics.

“The advent of antibiotics revolutionised our treatment of infectious diseases but growing antimicrobial resistance to current frontline antibiotics is an increasing concern,” Professor Parker says.

The Ferrier Research Institute’s research investigates one of the ways bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics—through production of a bacterial enzyme that destroys the antibiotics and stops them from working.

“We plan to develop new ways to combat this enzyme,” Professor Parker says. “If we can stop this antibiotic-destroying enzyme from working, current antibiotics will still be effective against bacteria.”

To complete this research, Professor Parker, Dr Scott Cameron and their team will use the transition-state design approach pioneered by the Ferrier Research Institute—the same approach responsible for Mundesine®, an anti-lymphoma drug currently available in Japan that is the second medical therapeutic to be commercialised internationally from a New Zealand laboratory.

“Now that Mundesine®, has hit the market, we are keen to replicate this success with our new research,” Professor Parker says.

These projects were funded through the Health Research Council’s Pacific Project and Project funding. The Health Research Council aims to benefit New Zealand through health research, with Pacific Project funding supporting the health of Pacific peoples, families, and communities specifically.