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Matai institute open for research


Four years in the making, including national and international collaboration and the successful raising of $10 million to turn vision into reality, the non-profit Matai medical research institute was officially opened yesterday after a pohiri welcoming dignitaries and local supporters to the new facility at Gisborne Hospital.

Key among the guests was a contingent from The University of Auckland led by New Zealand’s pre-eminent neuroscientist, Centre for Brain Research director and Matai trustee Sir Richard Faull. The university is supporting Matai with a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and students, and heads of departments involved attended the event which was livestreamed by Turanga FM and emceed by aptly-named station manager Matai Smith.

Sir Richard was excited at the prospects for a collaboration that brings the best of medical science out into a provincial community where it can be applied at a local level to major health problems and innovative research. At the post-launch function he also committed to an annual visit by department heads to ensure the partnership remained on a strong footing.

GE Healthcare, the large multinational that sold Matai its $3 million state-of-the-art Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine, is also collaborating with the new research centre and was represented by its New Zealand commercial leader Anna Shaw.

Matai — which means to investigate or examine — is a medical imaging research and innovation centre that will focus on improving the diagnosis and treatment of mild traumatic brain injury, cardiovascular disease, a unique child wellbeing study, and other health issues that impact the Tairawhiti community.

It is the brain child of Dr Samantha Holdsworth, who came home to Gisborne after 11 years as a postdoctoral fellow then senior scientist at Stanford University, working at the forefront internationally of super-fast, high-resolution scanning methods. While developing the Matai concept she has also been lecturing at Auckland University’s Department of Anatomy and Medical Imaging, and was appointed a principal investigator at the Centre for Brain Research.

Dr Holdsworth was full of praise for the many people and organisations that have supported the development of Matai, and especially her chief operating officer Leigh Potter and the rest of their dedicated team.