New Zealand announces $25m research initiative to fight infectious diseases

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New Zealand’s government on Sunday announced it was investing NZ$36m ($25m) in a new research platform to boost the country’s preparedness for future pandemics.

Dr Ayesha Verrall, the associate minister of research, science and innovation, said a lack of a dedicated infectious diseases research fund had long been a gap in New Zealand’s science capabilities.

“When the pandemic hit, scientists either volunteered time to support the Covid-19 response or received ad hoc grants for small pieces of research,” Verrall said. “To address this, we are investing NZ$36m over three years in a new programme of research to sustain the contribution of cutting-edge science to the response.”

Initial focus would be on questions relating to Covid-19 that are common to all infectious diseases, Verrall added.

       A poster promotes the wearing of masks at a bus stop in Auckland’s deserted central business district         © Bloomberg

“The first priority area is improving prevention and control, including through better understanding of disease transmission, and further vaccine research,” she said. “The second is in improving our management of infectious diseases, for instance through diagnostics, surveillance and therapeutics.”

Reducing the impact of infectious diseases on Maori and Pacific people, and promoting the development of the next generation of pandemic scientists, would be key drivers of the new platform.

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