Liggins Institute

Inaugural lectures

Celebrating the appointment of  internationally estemed academic researchers to Chairs at the Institute

Six of the Liggins Institute professors celebrate the opening of the 2013 inaugural lectures. (L to R) Professors Jane Harding, Frank Bloomfield, Caroline Crowther, Wayne Cutfield, Philip Baker and David Cameron-Smith

Inaugural lectures

Inaugural lectures are important occasions for academic organisations. Appointment as a professor is a high point in an academic career. Having academic staff promoted to the ranks of professor and professors with established reputations join us, is a measure of the international esteem in which the Liggins Institute is held.

Inaugural lectures were held at the Liggins Institute for the first time in 2013 when four appointments to the professorial staff were officially acknowledged.

The lectures (below) highlight the Liggins Institute’s academic strength and diversity as each new professor speaks of their research and the academic and personal journeys that brought them to this point in their careers.


2017: Martin Kussmann, Professor of Chemistry

Educated and trained as an analytical biochemist, Professor Kussmann built his research experience in the pharmaceutical, biotech start-up and nutritional industries. From 2012 to 2016, he was Head of Molecular Biomarkers at the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences, and Lecturer at the EPF Lausanne, Switzerland. He’s also been an Honorary Professor at Aarhus University in Denmark since 2009. Professor Kussmann joined the Liggins Institute in 2016 where he is the Scientific Director of the NZ National Science Challenge High-Value Nutrition.

'A science career plan does not make sense'

Unlike some corporate thinking about human resources,Martin does not believe in career planning, and certainly not when it comes to science. In his opinion, the professional path is a result of the interaction between passion and exposure – similar to the gene-environment interactions that we are studying today in life science. In this inaugural lecture, Martin shares his 'way of (professional) life', takes us on an 'omics' journey (that is, genomics and downstream) through human studies in nutrition and health, and thanks his mentors and teams along the way.

Watch Professor Kussmann's lecture below, which includes an introduction by Distinguished Professor Jane Harding.



2017: Mark Vickers, Professor of Paediatrics

Professor Vickers completed his MSc and PhD in Medical Science and Paediatrics respectively at the University of Auckland. Given that his BSc was in Geography his career path has taken some unexpected twists. Professor Vickers will cover some of this unexpected journey into the field of developmental programming including intervention strategies that hold promise in reversing the later life consequences of early life adversity.

'An accidental journey into developmental programming

It is now well established that alterations in the early life nutritional environment can lead to an increased risk for the development of a number of metabolic, cardiovascular and behavioural disorders in offspring in later life, a process preferentially termed “developmental programming”. Pre-clinical models developed at the Liggins Institute have been invaluable in providing empirical evidence to support the programming hypothesis and increasing our understanding of the mechanisms involved and potential strategies for intervention.

Watch Professor Vickers' lecture below, which includes an introduction by Liggins Institute director, Professor Frank Bloomfield.  

Professor Paul Hofman inaugural lecture
Professor Paul Hofman

2014: Paul Hofman, Professor of Paediatric Endocrinology

Professor Hofman combines clinical work at Starship Children’s Hospital with research at the Liggins Institute. His research focuses on the developmental origins of adult disease, with particular interests in the metabolic complications of being born preterm, the role of exercise during pregnancy in preventing offspring obesity, the effect of exercise on cardiovascular function in diabetic and obese adolescents, and the long term outcomes for children identified with congenital hypothyroidism, during new-born screening. He is Clinical Director of the Paykel Clinical Research Unit at the Liggins Institute.

Persistent echoes of early life

Early-life events have well recognised effects on a range of later health outcomes including body composition, metabolism and adult disease risk. Events occurring from before conception through to late pregnancy have been associated with differing, adverse outcomes, dependent on the timing and duration of the events.
In his lecture, Professor Hofman described his research group’s observations for small for gestational age and preterm children and other at-risk groups. The talk also explored data suggesting potential long-term differences in growth and metabolic risk relating to birth order and parental age.

Watch a recording of the lecture below. This includes an introduction by former Liggins Institute Director Professor Wayne Cutfield and closing remarks by Professor Alistair Gunn (Physiology).

Professor Hofman's lecture begins at approx. 7 minutes

Persistent Echoes of Early Life
Professor Caroline Crowther

2013: Caroline Crowther, Professor of Maternal and Perinatal Health

Professor Crowther has extensive experience in evidence-based health care and has conducted many systematic reviews and multicentre trials. These have evaluated new maternal and perinatal therapies especially prior to preterm birth, such as antenatal corticosteroids, progesterone and magnesium sulphate; care practices, including mode of birth after a previous caesarean; and treatment for women with gestational diabetes.

Best evidence, best care for mothers and babies

Her inaugural lecture, Professor Crowther focused on her belief that mothers and babies deserve clinical care that is based on the best research evidence available. Importantly, this evidence must be accessible to all those involved in making healthcare decisions: the women and their families, health professionals and policy makers.

“To make a meaningful difference, health information has to be applicable, acceptable – and adopted. Our challenge in maternal and perinatal health is to ensure care for women and their babies is based on sound evidence and that this information is used, so all can receive the best care possible,” she says.

Watch Professor Crowther’s lecture
Best evidence, best care for mothers and babies

Professor David Cameron-Smith

2013: David Cameron-Smith, Professor of Nutrition

Professor Cameron-Smith is Chair in Nutrition, Deputy and Research Director at the Liggins Institute. His appointment in 2011 was part of the University of Auckland’s strategic initiative in Food and Health.

He is fascinated by the mystery of how what we eat determines our long-term health and wellbeing. His research focuses on understanding the complex biological processes involved in digestion, and in making and losing muscle – and how these change across the life-course. He has a particular interest discovering how nutrition can be optimised to reduce early signs of ageing, boost athletic performance and help people of all ages maximise the benefits of healthy diets.

The secret adventures of food – what really goes on inside?

Good nutrition is frequently summed up as “everything in moderation”. Yet, despite this moderation, obesity, diabetes and heart disease rates continue to rise. This moderation, whatever it is, is not working. Added to the complexity is rapid population ageing. Is moderation still the best approach to maintaining optimal health and wellness as we grow old?

Watch Professor Cameron-Smith’s lecture
The secret adventures of food – what really goes on inside?

Professor Frank Bloomfield

2013: Frank Bloomfield, Professor of Neonatology

Professor Bloomfield also has cross-appointments in the Departments of Paediatrics: Child and Youth Health and Obstetrics and Gynaecology and practices as a neonatologist at National Women’s Health, Auckland City Hospital. He leads the Liggins Fetal, Perinatal and maternal Translational Research for Lifelong Health (LiFePATH) research group, a multidisciplinary research group focusing on how maternal, fetal and neonatal nutrition and the intrauterine environment affect fetal and postnatal growth, development and long-term health.

Has neonatology come of age?

Neonatology – the care of newborn babies, particularly those who are ill or born preterm - is a relatively young discipline in which rapid progress has been largely driven by research. As care and immediate health outcomes have improved, the focus of research has shifted towards longer-term outcomes. In this lecture Professor Bloomfield discussed some of this research and whether it, together with current care and the voice of neonatal paediatrics nationally, indicates that Neonatology has “come of age”.

Watch Professor Bloomfield's lecture
Has neonatology come of age?

Professor Phil Baker (centre) with Liggins Institute Foundation Director Professor Sir Peter Gluckman (L) and Institute Director Professor Wayne Cutfield

2013: Philip Baker, Professor of Maternal and Fetal Health

Professor Baker holds joint positions as Professor of Maternal and Fetal Health at the Liggins Institute and Director of Gravida: National Centre for Growth and Development.

Gravida is a Centre of Research Excellence bringing together leading investigators from different disciplines in New Zealand's largest research centre, and one of biggest and best funded pregnancy and child research centres the world. Visit Gravida website

A Fellow of the prestigious Academy of Medical Sciences (UK), he has made major contributions to our understanding of preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction and is now translating his work into patient benefits. Notable amongst these are a multicentre clinical trial of Sildenafil as a potential therapy in pregnancies complicated by severe fetal growth restriction, and studies of the use of metabolomic biomarkers to screen for problem pregnancies.

Passing the mother test

Professor Baker says that on many occasions over his career, his mother has asked him whether any mother or baby actually benefitted from all the money he has had to spend on research. His challenge, he says, has been to try to pass this “mother test”.

Professor Baker balances clinical obstetric practice with research focused on two major pregnancy complications: preeclampsia (toxaemia) – a condition characterised by high blood pressure in pregnancy – and fetal growth restriction – where a baby fails to grow properly inside the womb. Exploring both the role of the placenta and changes in blood vessel function in complicated pregnancies, he has worked to increase understanding of why these conditions occur. This increased understanding has formed the basis of work to identify which pregnancies are at particular risk, and to then target these pregnancies with novel treatments.

Professor Baker’s lecture focused largely on the theme which has underpinned much of his research and clinical career, his quest to understand and predict which women will develop the pregnancy complication preeclampsia which kills up to 100,000 women worldwide, each year.

We regret that no recording of Professor Baker’s lecture is available.