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IRANZ news briefs ▼
Malaghan: Harnessing mRNA tech for powerful malaria vaccine ▼
MRINZ: Study of long-term symptoms in COVID offers new insights ▼
Verum Group: The cost of dust ▼
TTW seeks perspectives on genetic technologies and pest management ▼
Aqualinc: Quantifying and allocating NZ’s water ▼
Cawthron: Exploring microalgae as potential future food ▼
Lincoln Agritech: Different approaches to braided river research ▼
Bragato: The influence of macerating enzymes on pinot noir wines ▼
Motu: New guide to help NZ communities tackle major challenges ▼
Scarlatti: Are psychosocial hazards sabotaging your work? ▼
Taiuru: AI and Mātauranga Sovereignty ▼
Mackie Research: ‘Sorry mate, I didn’t see you’ ▼
WSP: Mode shift ▼
BRANZ: Much ado about biogenic carbon ▼
HERA launches numerical simulation for structural fire analysis ▼
Cawthron: Farming oysters in the open ocean ▼
Aqualinc: Will El Nino impact water supplies this summer? ▼
Motu: Expenditure patterns of New Zealand retiree households ▼
HERA releases two new reports on Construction 4.0 ▼
WSP: Level crossing infrastructure shapes driver behaviour ▼
Malaghan: Hookworms may offer protection from severe Covid symptoms ▼
Multimedia: Podcasts, radio, tv, video, and more from our members ▼
Follow us on social media ▼

IRANZ news briefs
  • Welcome to new member IGCI
  • IGCI: Dr Yinpeng Li appointed to the CMIP-7 Data Access team
  • Gillies McIndoe: Dr Swee Tan - In search of a better way
  • Aqualinc: Sponge cities sound great but beware the unintended consequences
  • Cawthron and Ifremer strengthen international collaboration with MOU
  • WSP Research to pinpoint improvements to driver licensing
  • Lincoln Agritech: Francelino Rodrigues keynote at Brazilian Plant Breeding Congress
  • Xerra taking Starboard to Halifax
  • Malaghan: HRC to fund study on the skin’s role in initiating allergic disease

Follow the link for more details on the August 2023 news briefs from our Independent Research Organisations.


cars on the motorway
In new research from WSP, researcher Jared Thomas says there are several possible reasons for people not accessing or progressing slowly through the driver licensing scheme. These include not having access to a car, not having someone to teach them how to drive, difficulty accessing testing stations in rural areas, or anxiety about the driving test. Photo: WSP.
Malaghan: Harnessing mRNA tech for powerful malaria vaccine

A new mRNA vaccine targeting immune cells in the liver could be the key to tackling malaria, a disease that causes over half a million deaths each year according to the World Health Organization, yet has no effective long-lasting vaccine.

Trans-Tasman research collaborators from Te Herenga Waka— Victoria University of Wellington’s Ferrier Research Institute and the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in New Zealand, and the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Australia have developed an mRNA-based vaccine that can effectively target and stimulate protective immune cell responses against the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium in preclinical models.

Ferrier Research Institute’s Professor Gavin Painter says the approach is distinctive, as the team leveraged years of prior research from the University of Melbourne’s Professor Bill Heath at the Doherty Institute and Professor Ian Hermans from the Malaghan Institute.

“Thanks to this synergy, we were able to design and validate an example of an mRNA vaccine that works by generating resident memory cells in the liver in a malaria model,” says Prof. Painter.


malaria vaccine
Photo: Malaghan Institute.
MRINZ: Study of long-term symptoms in COVID offers new insights

New research by the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand (MRINZ), in partnership with Te Whatu Ora, has examined long-term symptoms in COVID-19 cases, looking at the physical and mental health of Greater Wellington region study participants, almost two years after their illness.

"The long-term impacts of COVID-19 on confirmed cases at least 12 months post-infection in Wellington, New Zealand: an observational, crosssectional study" has been published in the July issue of The New Zealand Medical Journal (NZMJ).


covid test
A positive COVID-19 test. Photo: Louise Thomas.
The types of industries where respiratory crystalline silica is a particular problem include quarrying, roading, construction, mining, and manufacturing. “It’s found in concrete, bricks, rocks, stone, engineered stone, sand, and clay. Dust is created anytime these materials are disturbed by cutting, grinding, and drilling,” says William. Photo: Natalie Comrie.
Verum Group: The cost of dust

The science around workplace dust is always evolving, but without doubt repeated exposure to certain types of dust can be deadly. “Part of the problem,” says Verum Group’s Industrial & Workplace Monitoring Manager William Porter, “is that impacts aren’t necessarily instantaneous.”

“Disease caused by workplace exposure to dust is more common in New Zealand than workplace accidents. Hundreds of people still die each year here, essentially from dust exposure, and more are crippled with illness.”

William says that with modern technology available for workers, this type of disease-causing exposure can be prevented or very much reduced. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, businesses in industries where dust is a concern have a duty to eliminate, or use controls to minimise worker exposure to dust.

“Respiratory crystalline silica, that is silica dust you wind up breathing in, can have incredibly small airborne particles, most of which you can’t even see, but they can get into your lungs and over time cause all sorts of health problems.


TTW seeks perspectives on genetic technologies and pest management

Te Tira Whakamātaki (TTW) has partnered with researchers from Auckland and Otago universities as part of a project that explores perspectives on the uses of genetic technologies. Although the researchers are looking at attitudes and knowledge of genetic technologies in general, they are specifically examining how Māori view genetic technologies and have nested it within TTW's work on pest control (including how, when, and if it should be used at all).

TTW's Pou Whakahaere Whakamātau Programme Evaluator and Impact Manager Micheal Heimlick says they have a series of conversations coming up with hapori and whānau across the country, but to prepare for them they recently published a survey asking for the public’s thoughts on genetic technologies and pest control.

"We’ve received over 500 responses so far and the survey closes on 1 September. We both want to thank those who have participated and encourage those who have not to contribute their perspectives. TTW wants to engage in conversations around genetic technologies from an informed perspective and the more that we hear from our communities, the better.

"To help reduce the burden of being surveyed, we are also giving away three $250 gift cards to New World to those who answer the survey. We will also be publishing a report on the results shortly after it closes on 1 September."


An unwanted rat roams a park at a marine sanctuary on Wellington's west coast. Photo: Louise Thomas.
Aqualinc: Quantifying and allocating NZ’s water

Aqualinc's Dr John Bright recently led an expert panel that produced a think piece report Future Focused Freshwater Accounting for the Ministry for the Environment.

The report provides options and concepts for implementing accounting systems to support freshwater outcomes. It provides recommendations on how freshwater accounting systems can be used to understand the state of the environment, including whether objectives, limits, and targets are being met, and to provide consistent and transparent reporting of compliance with allocation limits.

The Ministry is currently engaging with regional councils and other partners to discuss the findings of the report and options for potential changes to how New Zealand accounts for freshwater in the future.


Photo: Louise Thomas.
Cawthron: Exploring microalgae as potential future food

The Cawthron Institute has teamed up with biotechnology nutrition start-up NewFish, and Nelson-based marine engineering firm Kernohan Engineering to explore the nutritional properties of microalgae.

The project will see around 100 strains of microalgae from Cawthron’s globally significant Culture Collection investigated for nutritional properties and ease of production that could open up new sustainable protein industries.

“The aim of this project is to identify the best microalgae strains, and then produce them at scale so they can be processed into alternative protein and other ingredients for functional foods,” says Cawthron Science Impact Manager Dr Johan Svenson.

“There are thousands of microalgae species and within each species there are multiple strains, yet only a few strains have been studied in depth. Cawthron Institute is home to a treasure trove of more than 600 species in our microalgae Culture Collection, so we are potentially sitting on a lot of untapped opportunity."


Andy Selwood with Minister for Oceans and Fisheries Rachel Brooking
Cawthron Bioactives Team Leader Andy Selwood with Minister for Oceans and Fisheries Rachel Brooking. Photo: Cawthron Research Institute.
Lincoln Agritech: Different approaches to braided river research

Scientists on two different sides of the world are working to understand the dynamics of braided rivers and their interactions with aquifers, using two different approaches.

Lincoln Agritech’s Scott Wilson and Antoine Di Ciacca, together with Dresden-based colleague Thomas Wöhling and University of Canterbury PhD student Alice Sai Louie, set out to understand how braided rivers recharge regional aquifers, to improve water resource management. Their work is part of a five-year project funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.

Meanwhile, in Lyon, France, researchers saw that in braided rivers a significant part of the water flows through the subsurface, which has high ecological importance. They wanted to understand the dynamics of that flow.

The different starting points have led to different research strengths.


Lincoln Agritech team in Dresden
The Lincoln Agritech team visited Thomas and Moritz Kraft at Technische Universität Dresden, Germany, to plan and coordinate their joint work on modelling the Selwyn and Wairau rivers. From left, Thomas Wöhling, Antoine Di Ciacca, Alice Sai Louie, and Scott Wilson at Technische Universität Dresden. Photo: Lincoln Agritech.
pinot noir grapes
Photo: Bragato Research Institute.
Bragato: The influence of macerating enzymes on pinot noir wines

Pinot noir is one of the most popular red wines in the world and is the second-largest produced wine in New Zealand, making up 14% of the total vineyard area and 4% of exports, however, it can be a challenging variety to make.

Wine polysaccharides are large polymers of simple sugars that are thought to influence many parameters that govern quality including, aroma, mouthfeel, and clarity. Present in both the cell walls of grapes and yeasts, they are released into the wine matrix during maceration, fermentation, and ageing processes. The final concentration and profile of polysaccharides are highly dependent on the variety, vintage, climate, and processing techniques employed.

A research group at the University of Auckland led by Prof Bruno Fedrizzi and supported by Bragato Research Institute have been investigating and profiling the polysaccharides in New Zealand pinot noir wines.

Recently the research group have studied the influence of the use of fermentative macerating enzymes during cold soaking on the polysaccharide profile of pinot noir wines.


Motu: New guide to help NZ communities tackle major challenges

Motu Research has just released a new guide to help communities and organisations run their own just transition processes in response to challenges like climate change, rapid technological change, employment changes in regions and the transition to renewable energy in a way that fairly shares both the positive and negative effects.

Building upon widespread efforts already underway in Aotearoa, the guide offers practical ideas, methods, tools and case studies so communities can lead processes of change when facing environmental or social disruptions.

“Our communities can help drive positive change because they have a deep understanding of what is happening, how it is impacting on people and what solutions will work,” says Catherine Leining, a Motu Policy Fellow and co-lead for the project.

Janet Stephenson, a co-author from the University of Otago, says, “People in Aotearoa New Zealand feel strongly about fairness. And that's what the ‘just’ in ‘just transitions’ is all about. It is about working together to make sure the big changes we all see coming happen in a fair and equitable way.”


new guide cover
Scarlatti: Are psychosocial hazards sabotaging your work?

Questions and actions regarding workplace wellbeing and psychosocial hazards are on the rise. But what is meant by psychosocial risks, and how can you take action for a healthier workplace? Scarlatti's Senior research manager Dana Carver explores psychosocial hazards in the workplace.

Psychosocial hazards are defined by WorkSafe as ‘the aspects of design and management of a workplace, that have the potential to cause psychological or physical harm’. Psychosocial risks and hazards in the workplace can result in stress, burnout, office politics, isolation, and impact employee wellbeing and productivity.

"For example, high sedentary demand is a psychosocial hazard that would be high risk for an office job but not a risk for a job such as farming. Wellbeing encompasses good physical health and good mental health. Wellbeing is not simply defined by the absence of disease or illness, but a holistic depiction of one's quality of life – the ability to contribute to the world with a sense of meaning and purpose."


Scarlatti graphic
Image: Scarlatti.
Taiuru: AI and Mātauranga Sovereignty

In May, Dr Karaitiana Taiuru of Taiuru & Associates presented at the prestigious Gibbons Lecture Series and was hosted by the School of Computer Science at the University of Auckland.

He shares his thoughts about how Māori are at a crossroads in human evolution, and that AI could be used to decolonise and empower Māori.

However, he warns that all Indigenous Peoples including Māori are on the brink of being colonised again with AI if they are not a part of the ethics, initial planning, and decision-making processes, as beta testers and codevelopers, throughout the entire life cycle of generative AI from inception to deployment and then in a monitoring capacity.

His talk discusses the positive impacts of generative AI with te reo Māori and future considerations for Māori Peoples with generative AI in traditional settings such as marae and pōwhiri.

A video of his talk is available on YouTube on the University of Auckland channel.


robot painting
Mackie Research: ‘Sorry mate, I didn’t see you’

Kat Gilbert from Mackie Research is evaluating an innovative trial run by Auckland Transport to address motorcycle and cycle safety at urban intersections.

Mackie Research provided human factors input into the motorcycle and cycle warning system which was then developed by Auckland Transport.

For treatment and control intersections on Dominion Rd in Auckland, data was collected at baseline and following yellow hatching only, before active warning signs were installed to warn turning drivers of oncoming motorcyclists and cyclists. The measures are now being repeated following the installation of the warning signs that are now active. The measures include road user speed and behaviour as well as different levels of interaction between cyclists/motorcyclists and other road users using a human factors framework. Focus Groups have also been conducted to determine how drivers are likely to perceive and react to the new signs.

The trial and research is due for completion in September and it will inform Auckland Transport’s road safety programme.

Link to study: Dominion Road bike and motorbike safety trial.


Dominion Road, Auckland
Dominion Rd in Auckland. Photo: Mackie Research.
WSP: Mode shift

Speed limit reductions, cycleways, and clear markings are typically associated with improving road safety, but did you know they could also pave the way for more people to ditch their cars? Recent research from WSP has shed light on the benefits of these kinds of interventions, highlighting how they could be crucial in encouraging a shift towards more active modes of transport.

A team led by WSP technical principal for behavioural science Jared Thomas was commissioned by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to understand how effective safer journey interventions are in encouraging ‘mode shift’.

Mode shift sounds more like a button you’d find on a TV remote or gaming console. But in the world of transport planning, it’s about encouraging people to get out of cars and use healthier, more sustainable transport modes - like public transport, cycling, and walking.


active transport
“The evidence we found shows that if we create safe environments that encourage and support alternative transport options, people are more likely to choose these options over driving,” says Jared. Photo: WSP.
BRANZ: Much ado about biogenic carbon

Biogenic carbon may be sequestered in growing trees that are, ultimately, harvested to form wood-based construction products. Through this mechanism – and assuming the trees are grown using sustainable forestry management practices – carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere for the period that it is fixed in a timber frame, glulam beam, plywood panel, or similar. These wood-based materials are not the only examples – other materials such as straw, hemp, and wool also contain biogenic carbon and can be incorporated into building elements.

BRANZ Principal Scientist – Sustainability Dr David Dowdell writes about biogenic carbon in this month's build magazine. He writes that biogenic carbon is released back to the atmosphere, primarily as carbon dioxide, when these types of building materials are combusted.

"Alternatively, when sent to landfill, some of the biogenic carbon content may be released to the atmosphere as methane – a shorter-lived and more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – through decomposition.”


biogenic carbon building assessment
Multi-residential building assessment of greenhouse gas emissions grouped according to the biogenic carbon modelling approach and the building service life of the material in years. Image: Department of Construction Engineering, Université du Québec.
HERA launches numerical simulation for structural fire analysis

HERA, a leading provider of fire safety engineering solutions, recently announced the launch of a new numerical simulation research capacity in the structural fire area.

The new capacity will focus on the development of new fire safety technologies and the improvement of existing fire safety practices. The launch of the new research capacity is a significant development for HERA and for the fire safety engineering community. It will help to ensure that HERA remains at the forefront of structural fire research and that its solutions are based on the latest scientific knowledge. The new numerical simulation capacity is being led by Dr Fanqin Meng, who has extensive experience in the development and use of numerical simulation tools for structural fire analysis. Dr Kaveh Andisheh, who supervises the research and development in this area, also plays a crucial role in guiding the team towards achieving their research objectives. With their combined expertise and leadership, the team is poised to make significant advancements in the field of structural fire analysis and design.


SAFIR software
SAFIR software can be used to study the behaviour of one, two, and three-dimensional structures subject to fire. Screenshot: HERA.
Cawthron: Farming oysters in the open ocean

Open ocean oyster farming is one step closer to becoming commercially viable thanks to a new trial as part of a national open ocean aquaculture research programme. Cawthron Institute researchers are leading the five-year MBIE-funded Ngā Punga o te Moana research programme. They are collaborating on this trial with Moana New Zealand, Stainless Concepts, and Whakatōhea Mussels Ltd who have deployed the new trial structures on their marine farm off the coast of Ōpōtiki.

Programme leader Dr Kevin Heasman says open ocean farming will be necessary to support the growth of Aotearoa New Zealand’s aquaculture industry ambitions and its resilience in the face of increasing environmental pressures, including climate change.

“As waters warm and the farming space available in-shore fills up, we’ll need to extend further off-shore and this will require new methods of farming and new technologies.”


The new trial sub-unit being deployed.
The new trial sub-unit being deployed off the coast of Ōpōtiki on industry partners Whakatōhea Mussels’ marine farm. Photo: Cawthron Research Institute.
Aqualinc: Will El Nino impact water supplies this summer?

The World Meteorological Organisation is predicting a 90% likelihood of El Nino conditions next summer, stating that “early warnings and anticipatory action of extreme weather events associated with this major climate phenomenon are vital to save lives and livelihoods.”

El Nino and La Nina are the two extreme ends of the El Nino Southern Oscillation, a fluctuation of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that occurs on a cycle of three to seven years. While some parts of New Zealand can experience drought under both El Nino and La Nina, the last two summers in Canterbury have been wetter than average, which has taken the pressure off for water users.

Dr Andrew Dark from Aqualinc writes that "while we don’t know for sure what the 2023–24 summer will bring, it is best to be prepared by managing water from the beginning of summer as if a drought is a certainty. Unlike floods, droughts can sneak up on us: we often don’t know we’re in one until it is well underway. Water users with annual volume limits on their resource consents will need to keep a close eye on water use, as there is a higher chance of limits being reached."


irrigated fields
Previous El Nino conditions have caused severe drought in Canterbury. Photo: Aqualinc.
Motu: Expenditure patterns of New Zealand retiree households

New research from Motu Economic and Public Policy Research delves into expenditure patterns of retiree households in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In the latest year of analysis (2018/19), the average annual expenditure for retiree households was found to be $55,700. This amount was distributed across various categories, with 13% allocated to groceries, 19% to housing, and 14% to other necessities like household utilities, communications, and insurance. Remarkably, discretionary expenses accounted for the remaining 54%.

The analysis reveals that, on average, single retirees living alone spend $30,700 annually, while couple-only households spent a higher average of $65,100 per annum.

The researchers show a profound connection between subjective well-being and various demographic and socioeconomic factors. Retirees with higher qualifications, who own their homes, enjoy greater incomes, live with their partners, and have no dependent children tend to experience higher subjective well-being levels.


Retirement savings
Couples spend more per capita but have higher wellbeing than singles in retirement. Photo: Towfiqu Barbhuiya, Unsplash.
Construction 4.0 report cover
Image: HERA.
HERA releases two new reports on Construction 4.0

HERA has recently released the second of their white papers arising from the $10.3 million Endeavour funded project Developing a Construction 4.0 transformation of the Aotearoa New Zealand Construction sector.

The second report, Public governance in the context of Construction 4.0: A systematic and comprehensive literature review, closely follows the release of HERA's first white paper in early July on the narrow and broad perspective of Construction 4.0. Both reports were prepared by Prof Jeroen van der Heijden who is working within the Technology Transfer theme of the project.

The authors write that the construction industry has historically been hesitant to adopt new technologies, but the emergence of Construction 4.0 presents an unprecedented opportunity for transformation.


WSP: Level crossing infrastructure shapes driver behaviour

Between 2010 and 2020 there were fifty-two fatal and serious-injury incidents at level crossings in Aotearoa New Zealand. In an effort to reduce these kinds of incidents, KiwiRail has commissioned WSP's Human Factors and Behavioural Science team to research how best to alter level crossings to reduce the likelihood of vehicle/train collisions.

The research is focused on incidents where drivers making a right-hand turn onto a level crossing fail to detect a train, leading to vehicle impact. An unfortunate example of this scenario occurred on 16 September 2020, when a bus turned right across Railway Road onto a level crossing at the Clevely Line near Palmerston North. The bus collided with a train. Sadly, the bus driver died at the scene and several passengers also suffered minor injuries.

The first part of WSP's research - an eye tracking study - is complete. This aimed to gather data on how drivers’ ‘stopping’ behaviour and ‘looking for trains’ behaviour changed depending on the type of level crossing infrastructure.


level crossing
At rushed crossings with fast approaches, poor looking behaviours and less stop compliance was observed. Also, the more controls present at a crossing, the less likely drivers were to check for trains. Photo: Jad Limcaco, Unsplash.
Malaghan: Hookworms may offer protection from severe Covid symptoms

Prior infection by a parasitic hookworm has been shown to protect mice from severe SARS-CoV-2 disease, offering a potential explanation as to why certain human populations seemed to fare better during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This work stemmed from an observation that certain regions in the world didn’t fare as badly from the early days of the pandemic as you would expect,” says Malaghan Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Kerry Hilligan who collaborated with colleagues at the National Institutes of Health, USA, on the study, recently published in Science Immunology.

“Countries throughout Africa and Asia were reporting fewer cases of severe infections, such as hospitalisations or death, much less than the rest of the world. This was the case even when accounting for some confounding factors in the data and lower reporting rates.”

“What’s interesting is that these regions strongly correlate or overlap with areas where hookworm infections are endemic – consistently present within the population. We think that perhaps this endemic infection by hookworms is causing a population-wide ‘interference’...”


covid and hookworm
Image: Malaghan Institute.
Multimedia: Podcasts, radio, tv, video, and more from our members

Check out the IRANZ multimedia page for more.


HERA: Ep.92 – World’s first fossil-free steel

In this episode of Stirring the Pot HERA talks with Thomas Hörnfeldt. Thomas is the Vice President of the Sustainable Business at SSAB, coming from a background in the metals, construction and process automation industry. He chats with HERA's Senior Structural Sustainability Engineer Amir Shah Mohammadi about SSAB’s HYBRIT technology which has resulted in the world’s first fossil-free steel production.

Bragato Research Institute's National Grapevine Collection

Principal Scientist Dr Darrell Lizamore discusses the country’s National Vine Collection housed at the Bragato Research Institute

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IRANZ is an association of independent research organisations. Its members undertake scientific research, development or technology transfer. Members include Aqualinc Research Ltd, Bragato Research Institute, BRANZ, Cawthron Institute, Dragonfly Data Science, Gillies McIndoe Research Institute, Heavy Engineering Research Association (HERA), International Global Change Institute (IGCI), Land & Water Science, Leather & Shoe Research Association (LASRA), Lincoln Agritech Ltd, Mackie Research, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand (MRINZ), Mātai Medical Research, M.E Research, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, New Zealand Brain Research Institute, New Zealand Institute of Minerals to Materials Research, Scarlatti, Taiuru & Associates, Takarangi Research Group, Te Tira Whakāmataki, Verum Group, WSP, and Xerra Earth Observation Institute.

Contact: Dr Rob Whitney, Executive Officer, mobile: +64 27 2921050, email:

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