Without medical research, there would be no medicine. Imagine that.

Everyone in New Zealand has benefited from medical research.

Without advances made through medical research, there would be no X-rays, antibiotics, no inhalers for people with asthma, no insulin for those with diabetes. Nor would there be advancements in cancer therapies, techniques to diagnose genetic malformations or vaccinations to prevent contagious diseases. There wouldn’t even be painkillers for a headache!

Keep up to date with regular news and information from Medical Research for Life.

History of Health Research in New Zealand

Milestones and scientific breakthroughs achieved through New Zealand’s research


New Zealand’s first medical school

New Zealand’s first medical school opens at the University of Otago.


The Health Department

The Health Department begins promoting and carrying out research into public health and preventing or treating disease, following the Health Act 1920.


Establishes its own departmental

The Health Department establishes its own departmental committee for medical research.


Stand-Alone Institute

The Medical Research Council is created as a stand-alone institute, replacing the departmental committee for medical research.


Regional Organisations

The Auckland Medical Research Foundation is established; other regional organisations followed in the 1960s.


The University of Auckland

The University of Auckland establishes the Auckland Medical School


The Cartwright Inquiry

The Cartwright Inquiry into cervical cancer research at National Women’s Hospital is conducted.


Health Research Council

The Health Research Council (HRC) is established under the Health Research Council Act 1990. The Act broadens the HRC’s scope beyond that of the Medical Research Council to include public health and Māori health research, while maintaining funding of biomedical research.


The Privacy Act 1993

The Privacy Act 1993 and the Health Information Privacy Code 1994 become law.


The Code of Health

The Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights and New Zealand’s informed consent model are introduced.


HRC funding transfers

HRC funding transfers from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology so that the Ministry can implement the full-cost funding model across the science system.


New Zealand Public Health

The New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000 establishes a national ethics review system for health and disability research.


The Centres of Research

The Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs) programme is created. It has since supported many centres performing health research, including the Maurice Wilkins Centre, Brain Research New Zealand, MedTech CoRE, the Riddet Institute and Gravida.


National Science Challenges

The National Science Challenges are established. Many are relevant to health and wellbeing, in particular: A better start, Ageing well, and Healthier lives.


HRC recommends

A review of the HRC recommends developing New Zealand’s first health research strategy, changes to the Ministerial oversight of the HRC, streamlining of HRC reporting and improvements to HRC processes.


$97 million over four years

The Government announces the largest-ever increase in New Zealand health research funding of $97 million over four years, bringing HRC funding to $123 million in 2019/20.


Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand sign the Australia New Zealand Science, Research and Innovation Cooperation Agreement.

Latest News

Auckland & Northland
The Auckland Medical Research Foundation provides funding across the complete spectrum of medical research from basic blue skies research to clinical trials and patient care. AMRF has an independently-endowed fund which covers administration and overheads, ensuring 100% of all donations goes directly to support research. Since being founded in 1955, the Foundation has committed more than $71m to medical research.

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Over the past seven years the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation has funded more than $22million in research into some of the world’s most devastating conditions such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, bowel disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons. Focused on enabling world-class medical research, supporting both emerging and more experienced, researchers, the Foundation helps to retain talent in the region.

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Hawke's Bay
Through medical research we discover more to help nurture, care, protect and improve our health and quality of life. For more than five decades the Hawke’s Bay Medical Research Foundation has enabled people in the region’s health sector undertake research to help improve the health of their community. Many of these projects have formed recommendations that were adopted nationally and internationally.

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The Otago Medical Research Foundation funds innovative world-class medical research carried out by our talented community of scientists, students, practitioners and lecturers. We provide scholarships and research grants, through annual funding rounds, that help retain top medical talent and intellectual property in Otago. Funding recipients contribute invaluable medical knowledge that is applied directly and used in teaching to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment for people in New Zealand and the world.

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Palmerston North
The Palmerston North Medical Research Foundation funds biomedical research. With its Public Hospital, Massey University and Fitzherbert Science Centres, the region has a significant number of scientists in this field. The Foundation promotes research that helps discover conditions conducive to health, causes of bodily and mental disorders, preventative or therapeutic strategies and prevention or treatment of disease. It also facilitates sharing biomedical scientific knowledge and research findings.

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The Southland Medical Foundation was founded in 1966 to finance medical education and research in the Southland District. Nurses, doctors and healthcare workers are given grants to enlarge knowledge of their speciality. The Foundation also receives applications from health institutions for equipment. A substantial legacy left by Southland farmers William & Gwenda Sybil Dick, enables the Foundation to fund heart research at the University of Otago.

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The Waikato Medical Research Foundation was established in 1986 to promote, encourage and sustain medical research in the Waikato region. It has supported studies of leukaemia, stroke, diabetes, head injury therapy, medically useful natural products, antibacterial properties of human breast milk and honey, asthma, breast cancer and coping with disability. This research is performed in major Waikato institutions including the University, Waikato Hospital, Ruakura Research Centre and WINTEC.

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Research For Life (the Wellington Medical Research Foundation Inc. founded in 1960), provides seed funding for innovative quality research within Wellington’s world-renowned scientific institutions. Every great innovation has started with a question or idea. Grants to talented researchers in the early stages of their careers continue our tradition of internationally recognised breakthroughs in life-saving medical treatments impacting positively on the quality of healthcare in the Wellington region and beyond.

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Public donations are vital to fund research – Thank you for your support