Liggins Institute

Clinical research

Researchers are investigating how early life events, such as preterm birth, affect children’s immediate and long-term health, growth and development.


Many Liggins researchers have dual appointments as practising clinicians. This enables them to follow groups of children and young people as they grow and to assess potential health risks that could be associated with their pre-birth environment or treatments during the neonatal period. Randomised controlled trials and observational studies are carried out either in hospitals or in the Liggins’ purpose-built clinical research unit. All clinical studies are approved by the Northern Regional or multi-site ethics committees.


Clinical Research Unit

The Clinical Research Unit at the Liggins Institute is a fully-equipped clinic for metabolic studies in children, young people and their families. The bright, child-friendly clinic is a non-threatening environment with 6 beds (in 3 rooms), a room with six armchairs for short duration studies, small, quiet rooms for questionnaires and psychological studies, and a kitchen and play/eating area.

The clinic is also suitable and frequently used for studies on adults including nutritional, metabolic and exercise intervention studies related to the Institute's research programmes. It is also used and available to other clinical research groups at the University of Auckland and Auckland hospitals.

The clinic's facilities include:

  • DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scanner that allows measurement of body composition in children and adults to determine the relative amounts of fat and lean tissue. It is also the most accurate way to measure bone mineral density
  • Peripheral QCT (Quantitative Computed Tomography) scanner which precisely measures cortical bone density, the most accurate index of actual bone density and strength. This tool can be used in infants, children and adults
  • Equipment to perform sophisticated cardiovascular assessments including regular blood pressure, 24 hr ambulatory blood pressure and and both basal and maximal aerobic capcity testing
  • Portable ultrasound which can be used for a range of functions including carotid intimal thickness assessment and flow mediated vasodilation (an accurate measure of peripheral vascular function)
  • Leonardo Jump Plate. This measures jump power as well as balance and is a useful tool in children and adults with impaired gait or motor function

The clinic is quiet, child-friendly and is available for approved external users. For further details please contact or Paykel Clinical Research Unit Director, Professor Paul Hofman, email

The clinic was built, equipped and operates thanks to a substantial gift from the late Maurice Paykel and Mrs. Agnes Paykel. It was officially opened in 2005 by Dame Silvia Cartwright (then) Governor General of New Zealand. It was reestablished as a larger, more comprehensive unit when the Liggins Institute relocated to the University's redeveloped Grafton Campus in 2012.

Clinical research team

The clinic is staffed by a friendly team comprising: paediatric endocrinologists, paediatricians, paediatric and research nurses and administration staff. Also working within the unit are paediatric fellows, PhD and masters students.

Principal research investigators:
Professor Paul Hofman, Director of the Paykel Clinical Research Unit
Professor Wayne Cutfield

From time to time members of the public are invited to participate in trials conducted in the unit.

To find out more or to express your interest, please contact: or Professor Paul Hofman.


Neonatal intensive care

Clinical researchers at the Liggins are investigating ways to improve clinical care for small and preterm infants during the vulnerable neonatal period and improve their long-term health outcomes. Clinical research includes involvement in large, multi-centre international randomised controlled trials (RCTs), as well as locally conducted RCTs.

Neonatal clinical research team

The neonatal clinical research team comprises neonatal paediatricians, neonatal nurse practitioners, neonatal nurses, dietitians, clinical research fellows and PhD students.

Principal research investigators:
Prof Jane Harding
Prof Frank Bloomfield
Dr Jane Alsweiler

Current projects

Trials in progress or development and led by the team include:

  • Treatment and long-term implications of hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose concentrations) in preterm newborns
  • Definition, diagnosis and management of neonatal hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose concentrations) in the newborn
  • Use of continuous glucose monitoring for management of hypo- and hyperglycaemia in the newborn
  • Relationships between blood glucose concentration and cerebral function
  • Novel approaches to optimise ventilation practices and reduce chronic lung disease in extremely preterm babies
  • Long-term consequences of fetal anaemia and intra-uterine transfusion
  • Childhood outcomes following repeat antenatal glucocorticoids
  • Neonatal outcomes following hyperemesis gravidarum
  • Growth and neurodevelopmental outcomes following optimisation of protein intake in extremely low birth-weight babies

Families whose babies have been through neonatal intensive care units are frequently invited to participate in follow-up studies of perinatal care. To find out more or to express interest, please contact Professor Frank Bloomfield.