$15 million for Auckland’s Bioengineering Institute to create virtual human

Published: 03 May 2021

$15 million has been awarded to the University of Auckland’s Bioengineering Institute’s (ABI) 12 Labours Project from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Catalyst Fund.

“This will support New Zealand researchers to collaborate with top institutes from around the world, and enhance New Zealand’s leadership in an area of real value to humanity,” says Dr Peter Crabtree, General Manager Science, Innovation and International (MBIE).

The 12 Labours Project seeks to create new ways of assessing, diagnosing and treating patients. It will translate years of clinical research into a mathematical model of a human body, which could then be personalised to different people, for individualised treatments

“This research will greatly contribute to international understanding of human bioengineering, and support the ABI to cement its place as the global leader in the field.  The research will also provide opportunities for development of our health-tech and med-tech sectors.

“The ABI is perfectly placed to lead the 12 Labours project, working closely with top institutes from around the world, including its principal partners in Germany including the University of Stuttgart, the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA) and the University of Freiburg. Top researchers from Oxford Harvard and Stanford Universities will also participate alongside other academics from the UK, US, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands and Australia.

“New Zealand has excellent bioengineering research leaders and science entrepreneurs, and we are proud to be supporting our local researchers’ contribution to addressing a major global science challenge,” says Dr Peter Crabtree.

The funding comes from the Catalyst Fund, which is aimed at growing international science and innovation partnerships. The funding supports New Zealand organisations to leverage international research and infrastructure capabilities.

The 12 Labours project expands on the international Physiome Project, also led by the ABI, which aims to build a complete virtual human at every level - linking genes, proteins, cells, organs and organ systems.

This funding will support the ABI team to create three technology platforms that demonstrate the healthcare applications of the wider Physiome Project. The three platforms will focus on pulmonary hypertension (cardiovascular and respiratory systems), upper limb rehabilitation, and the control of organ function by the autonomic nervous system (maternal health and digestive function).

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