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The NZ Brain Bee Challenge (NZBBC)

NZ$15,000 Annual Commitment

The NZBBC is a competition for high school students in year 11 to learn about the brain and its functions, learn about neuroscience research, find out about careers in neuroscience and to dispel misconceptions about neurological and mental illnesses.

The NZBBC provides current and accurate information on the latest advances in neuroscience research, its value to the community, and promote careers in science and technology.

Computational modelling and analysis to inform electrical treatments following spinal cord injury and assist in development of electrical biomarkers.

Host institution The University of Auckland
Lead Researcher Dr Brad Raos
2024 NZ$106,884
2025 NZ$106,884
Total Commitment NZ$246,362

This project will provide a means to both record and stimulate from the spinal cord. It has high potential to provide breakthroughs, not only in terms of treatment but also understanding of SCI, e.g. acute /spinal shock phase. Linking imaging with electrical activity and function across time, could yield important and novel information.

Spinal Cord Injury Research Symposium

Symposium Leader Asoc Prof Darren Svirskis
Project timeframe 2022
Funding amount $14,000

Assoc. Prof. Darren Svirskis is the newly appointed Chair of the Spinal Cord Injury Research Group at the University of Auckland.

The Spinal Cord Injury Symposium brought together 50 stakeholders with a mutual interest in improving the lives of those with spinal cord injuries.

Funding from CatWalk assisted in the attendance of collaborator Dr Maria Asplund from the University of Freyburg who specialises in bioelectronics.

Applying sustained electrical fields to achieve functional recovery after SCI

Host institution The University of Auckland
Lead Researcher Associate Professor Darren Svirskis
2023 NZ$64,700
Total Commitment NZ$337,942

The project continues to determine the efficacy of sustained electrical fields incorporated into a bioelectronic implant to direct axonal regeneration after SCI.

Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility (SCIRF)

Host institution The University of Auckland
Research location Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility (SCIRF)
Director Dr Simon O’Carroll
Technical Manager Barbara Fackelmeier
Total Commitment NZ$580,990 over five years ($116,176.00 p.a.)
Funding term 1 August 2020 – 31 July 2025, five years

A major initiative of the SCIRF continues to be training of biomedical students in spinal cord injury research and development of novel treatments for spinal cord injury. Funding for this covers the cost of highly specialised technical support and access to the world-class animal facility to support ongoing projects and collect pilot data to be used to attract funding from others sources, and summer studentship funding that allows the recruitment and training of postgraduate students.

Providing security of funding for the SCIRF allows the team to continue to attract and retain high quality staff and students crucial for building on the existing current projects as well as developing news ideas both locally and through international collaborations.

SCIRF carries out experiments in the Vernon Jansen Animal Unit (VJU) at the University of Auckland. The VJU is a state-of-the-art, high-containment animal facility that provides support for projects that have high-level containment requirements.

Long term funding for a technician ensures the employment of a highly experienced animal technician Barbara Fackelmeier. Barbara has over 15 years’ experience working with animals and is crucial to provide ongoing training in animal care and behavioural testing to new staff and students as well as providing ongoing technical, surgical and animal care support for postdocs and students within the SCIRF.

Being able to offer summer student scholarships allows the team to bring high quality medical and science students into the lab and introduce them to the field of spinal cord injury research.

Calcium binding buffer proteins and neuroprotection

Host institution The University of Auckland
Post‐Doctoral Research Fellow Dr Sheryl Tan
2023 NZ$115,592
2024 NZ$11,768
Total Commitment NZ$218,586

A series of functional studies will be conducted using human spinal cord tissue and stem cells to see if the distribution of calcium binding buffers are altered in the injured spinal cord and therefore if they create neurodegeneration.

Project Spark: Sparking a revolution in the way spinal cord injury is treated

Host institution Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), Sydney
Collaboration NeuRA, SpinalCure and CatWalk
2023 AU$320,116
2024 AU$364,079
2025 AU$364,079
Total Commitment AU$1,121,500

A joint funding agreement 50/50 between CatWalk and SpinalCure to support the research being undertaken by Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA).

Building on the eWalk trial evidence, NeuRA researchers and NeuroMoves clinics will commence a world-first national program of community studies making experimental neurostimulation treatments available in the community


Generating human oligodendrocyte precursor cells from adult human dermal fibroblasts – Project Funding

Host institution The University of Auckland
Lead Researcher Dr Amy Chapman
2024 NZ$1,952
Total Commitment NZ$55,833

This project will compare the viability and differentiation of cells encapsulated in 3D bio printed hydrogels verses the traditional flat 2D substrates.

Electroceutical therapies to treat spinal cord injury in a preclinical model

Host institution The University of Auckland
Lead Researcher Dr Bruce Harland
2023 NZ$123,181
2024 NZ$123,181
Total Commitment NZ$246,362

This fellowship will create / test second-generation bioelectric implants that are flexible and use super-capacitive electrodes that are less prone to degeneration. Both low and high frequency stimulation will be tested, whilst the final aim will use a battery-operated device, removing the need for external cabling