Highlights //

Creating connections with China (2012)

An official visit by State Councillor Liu Yandong, now a Vice-Premier of the People’s Republic of China, was the culmination of the Maurice Wilkins Centre’s work during 2012 to build strategic links between New Zealand and China in biomedical science.

Madam LiuState Councillor Liu visited New Zealand to discuss cooperation between our two countries in science, innovation and education. On a flying trip she met with the Prime Minister, Mayor of Auckland and other dignitaries and also made time to visit The University of Auckland and hear a Maurice Wilkins Centre presentation. She was accompanied by other senior members of the Chinese government and diplomats.

“The Chinese Embassy was aware of the reciprocal visits of Maurice Wilkins Centre scientists to China in April and of [Chinese] scientists to the Centre in August, [and their] in-depth discussions with respect to new drug developments,” explains Mr Xie Chengsuo, the Embassy’s First Secretary of Affairs of Science and Technology.

“[We] proposed the visit to the Centre, since it is a good example of personnel exchanges and the exploration of possible cooperation with China. [The] scientists in the Centre have been farsighted in promoting cooperation with their Chinese counterparts for mutual benefit.”

“International institutions have expressed enthusiasm for engaging with the Maurice Wilkins Centre as a conduit for New Zealand biomedical science,” says Director Professor Rod Dunbar. “New Zealand’s biomedical research and clinical translation capabilities are highly respected by our Asian colleagues. Our aim is to develop long-term, mutually beneficial relationships that will allow the expansion of their research programmes and our own, with benefits for health and the economy.”

With the second largest economy in the world, and a strategic approach to scientific and industrial development, China is making massive investments in science. Its Five Year Plan prioritises drug discovery, a high-technology area in which New Zealand, and the Maurice Wilkins Centre in particular, excels.

The Centre also draws together much of New Zealand’s expertise in developing new treatments for non-communicable disease, one of the three priority areas in the China-New Zealand Five Year Roadmap for scientific cooperation.

“[The Centre] includes many prominent scientists in the life science sector. It is
representative of the top research capabilities in New Zealand and we are delighted to forge such a close relationship,” says Professor Ming-Wei Wang, who leads the National
Centre for Drug Screening at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (Chinese Academy
of Sciences) and the Chinese National Compound Library – institutions that together can
support aspects of drug discovery complementary to those available at the Centre.

In late 2012 the Centre also hosted a visit by Zhejiang Province leaders. The province
hosted the 3rd China-New Zealand Joint Commission on Science and Technology and the
signing of the Five Year Roadmap, and is seen as central to scientific links between the two
countries. See page 26 for more on how the Centre is building international links for New
Zealand biomedical science.


Image: State Councillor Liu Yandong met with Maurice Wilkins Centre investigators at the University of Auckland. Photo courtesy of Godfrey Boenhnke