University of CanterburyMonday 17 September 2012, 3:38PM
Media release from University of Canterbury
University of Canterbury (UC) scientists are seeking a major
medical breakthrough in potentially identifying people most at risk
of becoming diabetic.
The University this week received more than $1 million in
government research project funding to discover a faster method for
GPs to diagnose people with diabetes.
The World Health Organisation estimates 346 million people
worldwide have diabetes. Over 200,000 New Zealanders have diabetes,
with one in 32 pakeha adults and one in 12 Maori and Pacific
Islanders suffering. Two out of three Maori and Pacific Islander
diabetics die from diabetic complications, compared to one in three
UC researcher Professor Juliet Gerrard who is overseeing the
project said if left unchecked, this single disease would consume
15 percent of the NZ health budget in the treatment of
complications, such as loss to eyesight, limb amputations, renal
damage, heart disease and strokes.
"Current blood tests can tell a GP that a diabetic is struggling to
manage their sugar levels. Our new testing method has the potential
to identify those patients for whom this will be a particular
problem in terms of diabetic complications. It will identify those
at most risk," she said.
"Early detection of diabetic complications is imperative as
diabetes is a growing public health challenge with enormous social
and economic consequences. We would expect it will take five years
of research and development to get the product to market."
The research team is led by Renwick Dobson of the Biomolecular
Interaction Centre at the University of Canterbury. Dr Dobson is an
emerging science leader with a strong background in protein science
who is now set to apply his cutting edge science to benefit New
They are researching in collaboration with Canterbury Scientific
Ltd (CSL); a Christchurch based diagnostic company that is
exporting a world class blood protein product to major
international diagnostic companies. This product is sold to
clinicians as part of the current gold standard blood test. They
have world class facilities, key product development expertise and
a route to the international customers, Professor Gerrard
A recent Price Waterhouse Coopers' analysis of the economic impact
of diabetes in NZ calculated that for a $60 million additional
investment in prevention, the taxpayer would save $400 million that
would otherwise have to be spent on Type 2 diabetes complications
By the end of 2014 scientists at the UC Biomolecular Interaction
Centre will know whether they can add a new product to CSL's range
which will enable GPs to identify those diabetics most at risk of
life threatening complications.
"We will provide new blood tests for complications of diabetes to
CSL, boosting their product range and reducing the economic burden
of diabetic management in NZ and globally.
"We will use world-leading science to explore a smart idea in
collaboration with industry. The team led by Dr Dobson has a
creative, innovative approach to solve an important problem in
diabetic management. The project will synthesize and test a set of
exciting molecules that are difficult to make," Professor Gerrard