Liggins Institute

Our history

Named after one of New Zealand's most eminent medical scientists, the Liggins Institute was the University of Auckland’s first Large Scale Research Institute. We focus on multidisciplinary biomedical and clinical research and postgraduate teaching.

History of the Liggins Institute video


Foundations of the Institute

The Liggins Institute was set up in 2001, fulfilling the vision of Professor Peter Gluckman and fellow founding directors, Professors Murray Mitchell, Stewart Gilmour and Jane Harding to establish a centre for internationally recognised research in developmental biology and its application to improving human health.

It brought together a nucleus of internationally recognised scientists already working on related research within The University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. The founders were subsequently joined by leading scientists from New Zealand and overseas to form a critical mass of researchers from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines. Together they bring multi-disciplinary approaches to investigating important health issues in ways that will translate discoveries in basic sciences into strategies to improve the health of individuals and whole populations.


Professor Sir Graham Liggins

Sir Graham ("Mont") Liggins FRS 1926 - 2010

The Institute is named after one of NZ’s most eminent medical scientists, the late Professor Sir Graham Liggins. Sir Graham achieved international fame in 1960s and 1970s for clinical innovations based on fundamental biomedical research which increased the survival of sick and preterm babies. Sir Graham Liggins is one of New Zealand’s most highly respected medical research scientists and he is internationally renowned for his pioneering research on the fetus and newborn.

Today Liggins scientists are proud to build their research on his pioneering example.

Much of the Institute’s research is focused on finding ways to prevent preterm birth and improve the health of babies born prematurely. Researchers have discovered that preterm babies have health profiles that are distinctly different from those born at full term. Some of this information has come from following the very same babies born during Professor Liggins’ clinical trial nearly 40 years ago, and their children.

He showed that giving steroids to women experiencing early labour could accelerate infant lung development enough to enable premature newborn babies to breathe independently. His work, which led to a much deeper understanding of the birth process, transformed the practice of neonatology and led to dramatically improved survival rates among premature babies all over the world. His technique is now standard obstetric practice. It demonstrated the power of a brilliant mind to recognise the unexpected, to perform fundamental biomedical research and to rapidly translate it into clinical research, followed by clinical application.

Sir Graham (affectionately known as "Mont") and his work have been a source of inspiration to the founding scientists at the institute that is proud to bear his name. They continue the pioneering traditions he set for New Zealand medical science.

Sir Graham Liggins died in Auckland on 24 August 2010 after a long illness.

Read a tribute from Professor Wayne Cutfield
Read a tribute from Professor Sir Peter Gluckman FRS, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister
Read Professor Sir Peter Gluckman's eulogy for Sir Graham Liggins