Funding Opportunities

Te Aka 2023 Funding Round


We are now accepting research grant applications for our Te Aka 2023 Funding Round, utilising the generous philanthropic gift that established our Li Family Cancer Research Fund. Please get in touch if you are interested.

Submissions close Monday 6th November 2023


Te Aka and the Li Family Cancer Research Fund

This fund’s purpose is to encourage excellent cancer research in all disciplines focused on improving health outcomes and reducing inequalities, through research strongly engaged with the community. The research supported via this fund should have translational impact, with funded work going on to win further competitive grants (for example, through Health Research Council project and programme grants).

The fund is a tangible way to support Te Aka’s vision of connecting cancer research with patient care by bringing together researchers and clinicians to produce excellent research projects and to build and enhance lasting partnerships.

We also see funded projects as a vehicle to support new and emerging researchers, with projects that include students and early career researchers, thus building capacity in the cancer research workforce. Te Aka also seeks to make the workforce better reflect the community it serves by increasing Māori and Pacific representation.

With Māori overrepresented in incidence rates and outcomes, Te Aka also seeks to promote research that specifically advances Māori health outcomes.



The Opportunity

The Te Aka 2023 Funding Round calls for research projects up to a value of $50,000. The grants are non-specific as to discipline (multi and transdisciplinary is encouraged) and applications will be assessed by a broad Scientific Review Panel. Assessment is primarily based on Scientific Merit, in addition to the elements described above (i.e. Impact on Community Health, Partnership Building, Research Workforce Development, and Māori Health Advancement).

Funded projects are required to commence in 2024, to be delivered over a period not exceeding 18 months. Approved projects will carry reporting requirements to ensure effective delivery and timely reporting so that the impact of the projects can be effectively conveyed to the funder (Te Aka will assist with this).



Next Steps

Please register your interest in applying for this funding round by emailing us. The Application Form, Guide, and further information will be provided to you.

Feel free to forward this invitation to others who may be interested – applicants must be the project lead/Principal Investigator of the proposed project, and that PI must be a University of Auckland staff member and affiliate of Te Aka (becoming an affiliate is free and easy, and can be done via the e-form here). You may make only one application as PI, though PIs on one application may also be team members on another.

Team members can be drawn from other organisations and indeed this may support the promotion of partnership building and transdisciplinarity.

The deadline for submission is Monday 6 November 2023.

Te Aka Strategic PhD Scholarships for 2023


In 2023 Te Aka has been allocated two 3-year full time PhD scholarships by Waipapa Taumata Rau. These scholarships include fees, a stipend and some minor administrative costs. In addition to these two scholarships, Te Aka is funding an additional two scholarships from their philanthropic fund, to a total of four PhD scholarships advancing cancer research starting in 2023. These scholarships are allocated to the four projects outlined below. To register interest please email to be put in touch, or contact the Supervisor directly.

Applications close 11th January 2023, with completed paperwork and supervisor agreement.


Supervisor and faculty Title Partners
Rob McNeill, Population Health, FMHS Using Cancer Patient and Whānau Experiences to Drive Service Improvements in Oncology Services

Te Pūriri O Te Ora – Regional Cancer and Blood Service

Te Aho o Te Kahu – National Cancer Control Agency

Paul Harris, Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science Boron Neutron Capture Therapy-A

Radiation Oncology, Te Whatu Ora Auckland

Te Pūriri O Te Ora – Regional Cancer and Blood Service

Paula Lorgelly, Population Health, FMHS Investing in genomic medicine to improve population health and address inequalities: Understanding the value and the distribution of value to support the investment in genomics for cancer Multiple stakeholders involved as participants
Andrew Shelling (key supervisor), Medicine, FMHS and Karen Bartholomew (co-supervisor), Health Outcomes, Te Whatu Ora Waitematā

A genomic and epidemiological approach to addressing endometrial cancer rates in Aoteoroa New Zealand



Te Whatu Ora Waitematā (and Te Whatu Ora locality Auckland region)

Mayo Clinic US



Andrew Shelling/ Karen Bartholomew

Enquiries to Andrew Shelling as lead supervisor

Molecular classification enables targeting of endometrial cancer  that are likely to behave poorly (although the traditional morphologic evaluation may have put them in a falsely low risk group) enabling more aggressive treatment and hopefully better outcomes. Molecular classification enables recognition of some endometrial cancer that will do well with minimal treatment (again, some of these will have morphologic characteristics that would have put them in a high-risk group) enabling withholding of toxic treatment that does not add further survival benefit. Molecular classification is promising but long term prospective studies are lacking.


By taking a combined genomic and epidemiological approach, we hope to understand more about the increased inequities in endometrial cancer in Aoteoroa. We would like this to develop an opportunity for a future screening programme to reduce Māori and Pacific mortality from endometrial cancer.



Paula Lorgelly

Aotearoa New Zealand has worse cancer outcomes than many comparable countries. Within Aotearoa there are considerable disparities: Māori are more likely to develop cancer, and less likely to survive once diagnosed. There are recognised gaps in the availability of cancer medicines in Aotearoa New Zealand compared to similar countries, many of these are personalised medicines. Given the benefits of targeted treatments and the growing genomic landscape globally it is important to understand the barriers and enablers for greater investment in genomics such that New Zealand and its people are not left behind. Understanding the return on investment, that is the value of genomics is key, such evidence will inform adoption decisions and implementation strategies to ensure genomics improves population health equitably.  This PhD will explore the value of genomic medicines in Aotearoa, including how value differs for different stakeholders involved in decisions to invest, provide, deliver and take up the technology (e.g. Treasury, MBIE, MoH, Te Whatu Ora, Te Aka Whai Ora, industry, health professionals, researchers, patients both Māori and non-Māori and whānau), and how value is distributed across stakeholders and the patient population. It will employ economic evaluation techniques to model the return on investment of improved genomic data infrastructure, and the benefits that this delivers with respect to productivity, the New Zealand R&D landscape and broader health and wellbeing as well as who benefits and how they benefit.



Paul Harris

A new modality in cancer management, boron neuron capture therapy (BNCT), is emerging as an innovative treatment for aggressive cancers that are otherwise non-responsive to conventional therapy., 4a-b  BNCT uses a nuclear fission reaction of non-radioactive boron-10, emitting gamma radiation, alpha particles and high energy lithium ion that destroys malignant cancer cells, while minimising damage to healthy cells (Figure 1).  BNCT exploits a lower energy neutron beam that is significantly less harmful than traditional radiotherapy.  Since the neutron beam is non-ionising, only tissues that contain the neutron-absorbing boron-10 will undergo the nuclear fission process and ensuing tissue destruction.  Moreover, the limited path lengths of the high energy particles, (5-9 µm) restricts cellular damage to the diameter of a single boron-containing malignant cell sparing damage to healthy cells.


An Auckland-based company (Buckley Systems/Neuron Therapeutics) has developed a revolutionary technology that produces neutron beams via non-nuclear sources. Thus a significant bottleneck to BNCT has been removed and this system is employed in a  clinical setting but research into boron-10 containing compounds that discriminate for cancer cells has failed to keep pace.  The foremost challenge now is the selective accumulation of boron at the tumour and is the major bottleneck to implementing BNCT as a widespread cancer therapy.  To date only two compounds are in clinical use as the crucial boron carrier source but were developed in the 1960s and are non-selective for cancer cells.


This project will focus on developing new peptide-based molecules that can target a specific surface cell protein, αvβ6 integrin, that is highly expressed in 1/3 of solid cancers but virtually absent in healthy tissues.


Rob McNeill

This project would investigate the feasibility and effectiveness, as well as the enablers and barriers, of adopting a patient and whānau centred approach to service improvement in oncology services. It would build on methods already developed by the main supervisor (Rob McNeill) and would focus on establishing and testing a process for using patient reported experience (PRE) data to identify and address targets for service improvement. The project would be primarily focused on the services provided by Te Pūriri O Te Ora (the Northern Regional Cancer and Blood Service), which currently provides medical and radiation oncology services to approximately 40% of the NZ population. It would have a strong focus on equity and developing a process that addresses inequities. Strong relationships with the clinical and management staff in the service are already established, and there is strong interest in this from various groups at Te Aho O Te Kahu (the Cancer Control Agency).


Administrative Notes

Candidates are required to start the PhD within the 2023.

Candidates need to contact the relevant supervisor, be accepted, and have an initial application document completed and submitted to Te Aka via by 11 January 2023, with an ideal start date of 1 March (1 April for international students) 2023.

PhD candidates must be able to comply will all Waipapa Taumata Rau graduate student policies and procedures, including eligibility to undertake a PhD programme and ability to study in New Zealand.

Summer Studentships (applications are now closed)


Te Aka is proud to be contributing to developing the future cancer research workforce by funding three cancer-focused summer studentships from the generous gift of the Li Family.


The three topics are:

  • MHS082 – Equity and Efficiency of Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment (Clinical)
  • MHS016 – Cancer in a dish: creating personalized models of breast cancer using patient-derived organoids (Biomedical science)
  • MHS026 – The immune system strikes back: Unleashing anti-cancer immunity by banishing the immunosuppressive tryptophan metabolism (Biomedical science)


Student applicants can find out more information here, view the individual projects here (biomedical) and here (clinical) and apply here. Applications are open now and due by 4th August.

The application process is not run through Te Aka, however, if there are multiple applications, the Directorate will convene a panel to choose the successful applicants.

Peter Neilson Pancreatic Cancer Grant Funding Round (Applications are now closed)


We are delighted to announce that we are now accepting research grant applications for the Peter Neilson Pancreatic Cancer Grant Funding Round.


Te Aka Mātauranga Matepukupuku (Te Aka), hosted by the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, was formally established in August 2020 by approval of the DVCR and the University’s Research Committee.


This funding grant has been generously donated in memorial of Peter Neilson, a valued past Chair of Simplicity Foundation and in this round, the Te Aka aims to directly encourage and boost research in the pancreatic cancer field across all disciplines, and to facilitate collaboration between researchers from the University of Auckland and their DHB and community colleagues.


A major focus of the Te Aka is on improving health outcomes while reducing inequalities for all New Zealanders by engaging strongly with the community at all levels. The Centre will conduct and promote research focused on reducing health inequities for Māori and Pasifica, while ensuring that research is culturally safe, and treaty compliant.


This funding round will consist of a single project grant award of $100,000.


This is a new source of funding for the Te Aka and this funding round is a unique opportunity to focus on pancreatic cancer, encouraging emerging and established researchers alike to generate innovative approaches to this cancer area.

This grant will support partnerships, by providing funding to facilitate the development of new and existing translational research collaborations, which will lead to improved success in winning a variety of competitive international and national research grant applications. Where research relationships already exist, this Fund has the potential to further strengthen these relationships and research programmes. Funding for this category will be awarded for no more than 18 months. These projects will be reviewed, funded, and reported on similarly to our previous project funding rounds. There is a key expectation on the recipient of the funding to engage with the Alumni Relations and Development as this new funding relationship progresses.



If you or someone you know is interested applying for Te Aka Mātauranga Matepukupuku funding, please download the guidelines document and application form (found on this page).


The deadline for submission is Friday 17th June 2022. Late submissions will NOT be accepted.


DHB staff or collaborators without a formal University appointment, or those with an honorary academic appointment may be included in the project grant team. A transdisciplinary approach is encouraged, however, a University employed principal investigator with at least 0.2 FTE must be identified and named as the project lead. Honorary staff involvement must comply with the University’s Honorary Appointment Policy and Procedures (see guidelines for further information).

Please note: where applicable, all DHB approvals/signatures are required to have been obtained by the deadline. The final application (with signatures) will need to be uploaded to the Research Funding Module (RFM) under the category ‘Peter Neilson Pancreatic Cancer Research Grant’ by University of Auckland Principal Investigator by the deadline.

If you have any questions, please contact Leesa Russell, Project Manager, Te Aka Mātauranga Matepukupuku

We look forward to receiving your application.


Ngā mihi maioha,

The Directors of Te Aka Mātauranga Matepukupuku

Supporting Documents


Application Form


Application Guidelines


Scoring Sheet


The deadline for submission is Friday 17th June 2022. Late submissions will NOT be accepted.