New Zealand and Samoa Scientific Research Collaboration

The Maurice Wilkins Centre (MWC) signed a Memorandum of Cooperation agreement with the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (SROS) to establish a joint research centre in Apia with the first project focusing on biodiscovery from Samoan plants. MWC deputy director Professor Peter Shepherd announced a hui set to take place in Samoa February 2020, following the opening of a new bio-discovery facility in Samoa this year according to Chief Executive of SROS Dr Seuseu Tauati. LAUMATA LAUANO reports



The formal inauguration of a joint partnership of research linkage between New Zealand and Samoa in the human disease space is a first, says Prof Peter Shepherd.


“It is really exciting and ground-breaking,”


As the MWC is engaging closely with Māori and Pacific communities in New Zealand, he says building research links with Samoa is an important new addition to this strategy.


The agreement signing follows a recent visit by SROS scientists to New Zealand to investigate potential opportunities for biomedical research in Samoa, with the help of New Zealand researchers.


The partnership says Prof Shepherd allows researchers to work across many areas starting with the first project of the lot to cooperate to find, to look for, potential new anti-cancer agents out of Samoan plants and Samoan traditional remedies and plants.


“Moving forward to health studies looking at diabetes and sugar and genetics and so on,” says Prof Shepherd.


“Infectious diseases such as rheumatic fever is also named in this agreement as areas that we would cooperate on.


“It’s like a four-way marriage now, this links (SROS) into the Moko Foundation and into Ngati Porou Hauora and Pacuific Health Plus with John Fiso in Wellington and sort of binds us in a way as a team to work together.”


Dr Seuseu says they wouldn’t be in New Zealand to sign the MOC had it not been for the support of the Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.


“The reason why we’re here is the push from the PM, approving this collaboration and for it to move forward.


“We’re confident that we have the backing of the government.”


Dr Seuseu says SROS will be opening a new bio-discovery facility in Samoa, which will be how Samoa is going to communicate with MWC and whoever else has an interest.


“This one document connects so many, SROS opens its doors, welcoming visitors, whoever wants to attach with SROS, we are there and we are able to assist.”


“For me,” says Prof Shepherd, “this is a really exciting day to see each of these steps we take and how we can move forward with these communities and build science from the bottom up and allow different communities to play a role in this journey rather than being locked behind the doors of the ivory towers like in the past.”


“We’re announcing in about February 2020 we’re going to have a hui in Samoa to take this step forward to actually start communicating this to Samoan people and communities there.”