Freemasons fund new drug discovery programme

A world-leading drug discovery programme is being developed at the Centre for Brain Research, thanks to a donation from the Freemasons of New Zealand.

 The generous gift of $248,000 will enable the development of new drugs for neurodegenerative disorders. The funding brings together an expert scientific team, including medicinal chemists led by Professor Margaret Brimble from the School of Chemical Sciences and neuropharmacologists working in the CBR Biobank.

 New drug compounds will be developed by synthetic chemist DrAmanda Heapy, who has been awarded the Freemasons fellowship for this work. The team has a unique library of 2000 bioactive natural products. These novel compounds will be tested directly on human tissues in the Biobank, to speed up the drug development process.

 Dr Heapy says: “Collaboration is key. With medicinal chemistry we need constant feedback from biologists about what direction to go and we hope to provide a more tailored service to the pharmacologists which will fast track the search for novel compounds. The Centre for Brain Research has the Biobank, facilities and all the procedures set up for us to do this, whilst the chemists have the compound library. Thus, working closely is a huge competitive advantage — having discussions in person and bouncing ideas off one another.

 David Mace is the Chairman of the Freemasons Roskill Foundation, and says: “The Freemasons are delighted to announce the funding of this fellowship to continue the valuable work by New Zealand researchers at the forefront of global investigation.”

A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed by Vice Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon and the Grand Master of the Freemasons on 25th November, to celebrate the ongoing collaboration and support between the Freemasons and University research.

Issue Three of CBR Connections out now

CBR Connections

The Centre for Brain Research publishes an informative newsletter with all the latest news and information from our team.

Our glossy magazine-style newsletter aims to communicate the excitement of neuroscience to the wider community. It contains articles on our researchers and their latest research, as well as updates and reviews on brain research events and activities in Auckland.

Issue Three of Connections is out now. View the newsletter online here or download it from the CBR website.
In this issue:

CBR Connections
Issue Three of CBR Connections is out now

This issue’s cover story features the new Brain Recovery Clinic and the research underway to improve stroke rehabilitation. We take a look at what the new CBR Biobank will mean for patients. The latest news from the CBR including Brain Awareness Week, the CeleBRation Choir and our public lectures.

Million dollar donation for New Zealand’s first Biobank for brain research

A million dollar donation has enabled The University of Auckland’s Centre for Brain Research to establish the country’s first Biobank for brain disease.

 The generous gift from the Hugh Green Charitable Trust will fund the vital development and operational expenses of the new Biobank, which will house human cells and tissues from patients with brain disorders for expanded lab-based research into brain disease. While there are cancer tissue banks, this will be the first brain-oriented Biobank in the country.

 Centre Director Professor Richard Faull is delighted at what this donation will mean for the University.

 “The Biobank will be an incredible resource for our scientists and clinicians and will hopefully enable the discovery of new methods of diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of brain disorders,” said Professor Faull.

The cell and tissue resources will be available for research right across the Centre and will complement the Human Brain Bank resources. The Biobank will be the stimulus for promoting new research collaborations between CBR clinicians and neuroscientists following patients through the course of their disease.


“The Biobank will enable the neuroscientists in the Centre to identify markers of disease progression and directly test the effectiveness and safety of potential new treatments,” said Professor Mike Dragunow who will lead the Biobank.

 Trust spokesman John Green is extremely excited about the opportunity to become involved with Professor Faull and The Centre for Brain Research.


“We believe medical research related to the brain has the potential to help solve the mysteries of so many medical conditions which affect people every day. We have confidence that the team led by Professor Faull are the right people for us to invest in and we welcome an ongoing relationship towards finding answers and improving the lives of those who are affected by a neurological disease,” said Mr Green.


The funding will be spread over five years and will also support the soon-to-be launched Brain Recovery Clinic at the University’s Tamaki Campus.

 This is the second major donation for the Centre for Brain Research since its launch in November 2009. Earlier this year, the Centre received nearly a million dollars from the Aotearoa Foundation for new Post-Doctoral Fellowships.

 Professor Faull is overwhelmed by the support the Centre has garnered in its first year of operation.


“The generous backing we have seen proves to me how highly esteemed our scientists and clinicians are and how important it is for the country to have a top-class facility dedicated to making breakthroughs in the field of brain research,” said Professor Faull.