The ‘SHIVERS’ flu study wins national science award


The ‘SHIVERS’ flu study wins national science award

Media release from the ESR
3 minutes to Read

An ESR led research project investigating influenza and influenza vaccines has won a top national science award for contributing new insights into the burden of influenza, vaccine effectiveness and influenza immunology.

The New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) Shorland Medal was presented to a team of researchers at a ceremony in Auckland on Tuesday.

The award recognises the work of the SHIVERS (Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness Research and Surveillance) team in recognition of major and continued contribution to the largest and most comprehensive influenza research initiative ever conducted in the Southern Hemisphere.

Led by ESR’s Principal Investigator Dr Sue Huang, the SHIVERS project aims to evaluate influenza disease burden, epidemiology, virology, risk factors and immunology, along with measurement of the effectiveness of vaccination prevention strategies.

Dr Keith McLea, ESR Chief Executive says, “this award is recognition of the importance of the ongoing SHIVERS study and its contribution to national and international understanding about influenza.

“Receiving recognition from the scientific community is an acknowledgment of the quality of the work being done by Dr Huang and her fellow researchers.”

SHIVERS contributes to influenza control and pandemic preparedness, including informing policy changes; generating ground-breaking new knowledge and establishing modern and essential national surveillance infrastructure in hospital and primary care settings as New Zealand’s emergence response capability.

SHIVERS is a successful multi-agency and multi-disciplinary collaboration including ESR, the Universities of Auckland and Otago, and the Auckland and Counties Manukau District Health Boards. This Shorland Medal is awarded to SHIVERS team members: Principal Investigator (PI), Dr Sue Huang (Virology) and co-PIs: Drs Nikki Turner (General Practice, UoA), Michael Baker (Epidemiology, UoO), Cameron Grant (Paediatrics, ADHB) and Adrian Trenholme (Paediatrics, UoA).

Dr Huang, who is based at ESR’s National Influenza Centre at Wallaceville, Upper Hutt, says, “this team award is a confirmation of excellent collaboration at the national level. Collaboration is the key success factor to achieve these important and critical study outcomes. This is also a recognition of the hundreds of devoted and committed researchers working on SHIVERS during 2012-2017.

“SHIVERS also demonstrates successful international collaboration with the world-class WHO Collaborating Centre at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis USA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta USA.

“New Zealand’s unique public health infrastructure is ideal for population-based research with powerful and high quality data. It is satisfying to know that SHIVERS results are not only relevant for New Zealand policy, but also for the wider region and the world in terms of better seasonal influenza control and pandemic preparedness.”

Dr Huang and her team has recently launched a new influenza research project called WellKiwis, which will monitor flu and flu-like illness in 600 Wellington children for the first seven years of life. The aim is to develop a more effective and longer lasting flu vaccine.

The WellKiwis project’s focus is to understand how first exposure to flu viruses ’imprints’ the immune system and its response to subsequent exposures.

SHIVERS is a public health science initiative that is informing policy changes nationally and internationally through generating ground-breaking new knowledge. The project has received NZ$20 million in international research funds, which has led to new surveillance methods and established essential national infrastructure and emergency response capability. In 2016, SHIVERS was recognised by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as an exemplar for its beneficial economic, health, social and cultural outcomes. The SHIVERS team has received national and international recognition and in 2018 earned the Science New Zealand National Team Award, and the US Centre for Disease Control's Charles Shepard Science Award for excellence in science and Larry Anderson Award for Outstanding Public Health Science.

ESR (the Institute of Environmental Science and Research) is New Zealand’s Crown Research Institute specialising in science relating to people and communities.

ESR’s science helps to safeguard people’s health, provides expert forensic analysis to the justice system, protects New Zealand’s food-based economy, and improves the health of our water and natural environment.

NZAS is an independent body that stands for and advocates for science and scientists in New Zealand. It is made up of a wide cross-section of the New Zealand science community, from University departments to CRIs, to those working in independent research organisations or in science-related policy development. NZAS also looks at the importance of communicating what science is and does, now and in the future, to a range of audiences.

NZAS members work and lobby to:

  • promote science in New Zealand,
  • increase public awareness of science and expose pseudo-science,
  • debate and influence government science policy,
  • improve working conditions for scientists, including gender and ethnic equality,
  • promote free exchange of knowledge and international co-operation,
  • and encourage excellence in science.