Kiwi researcher's acclaim for breakthrough in hepatitis C treatment

A New Zealand researcher has been recognised for a major breakthrough in the treatment of a virus which causes liver failure.

Professor Edward Gane was one of more than a dozen researchers and scholars awarded medals by the Royal Society of New Zealand at a ceremony in Wellington last night.

Professor Gane, from Auckland City Hospital and the Auckland District Health Board, received the Liley Medal for his work on an improved treatment for hepatitis C, which is a major cause of liver failure in New Zealand.

After the bad blood screening scandal in the 1990's, hundreds of Kiwis contracted hepatitis accidentally from tainted blood products. Many were given the drug Interferon to treat it, but for many patients, it failed.

Auckland father Jack Finn has battled Hepatitis C since he was nine and says he experienced "dizzy spells, I had to sleep lots during the day, I was depressed."

Five years ago Finn's hepatologist teamed up with a local biotech company, and together with Professor Gane and his team had approval to trial a new drug called Sofosbuvir.

Professor Gane says: "We initially treated people for 12 weeks treatment with this single tablet plus an older type of tablet called Ribovirum and that, in that very small study, cured almost everyone.

"Sofosbuvir is not only a potent drug which works against all types of Hepatitis C, it also has what we call a high barrier to resistance and that is why it is so effective."

Later, international trials confirmed Sofosbuvir works by blocking the active site in the body the virus uses to reproduce.

Sofosbuvir has cured over 500 Hepatitis C patients so far, eliminating their risk of liver cancer and transplant.

Chemistry and physics researcher Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger won the prestigious Rutherford medal at last night's awards.

Other medal winners included Professor Alistair Gunn for his cooling cap research to prevent brain injury in babies, and Professor Parry Guilford for his work isolating the gene mutation for hereditary stomach cancer.

A dozen researchers have been honoured with medals by the Royal Society of New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS


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Little on Slater's 'kill me' texts: 'We've all had dreams about this sort of stuff'

Labour leader Andrew Little has rejected claims by blogger Cameron Slater that Labour's Chief of Staff leaked hacked information to Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager.

In a recently revealed text from Mr Slater to Prime Minister John Key, Mr Slater claimed Matt McCarten was involved in the hacking of his emails and Facebook messages.

Mr Little says Mr McCarten couldn't possibly have leaked the emails because he lacks computer skills.

"I spoke to him last night when the texts were revealed and I spoke to him again this morning and sought assurance that he had no connection to it whatsoever and he gave me that assurance," Mr Little said.

"I know Matt, and he's very talented in many ways, but computer skills is not one of them, he's one of the people, who I like very much, but he struggles to open his emails in the morning."

Mr Little laughed off Mr Slater's text message to Mr Key about a Labour attempt to kill him.

"As for the plot to kill, well you know, we've all played Cluedo, we've all had dreams about this sort of stuff it's fantasy land stuff, and it doesn't dignify any further response."

Mr Little also had another strong message for Mr Key who continues to deny misleading journalists and Parliament over the text message exchange with Mr Slater about the SIS report earlier in the week.

"Cut the crap, stop it, stop digging a hole, get yourself out of it admit the truth, tell everybody, we'll put a line under it and we'll all move on. He's better than this and New Zealand deserves better from their Prime Minister."

In a statement last night, Mr Key changed his, "no I did not communicate with Mr Slater", to a "yes I did communicate with Mr Slater".

He returned to Parliament yesterday, saying he misinterpreted the question, saying he thought it was referring to the Judith Collins inquiry and not the spy watchdog's report on the Dirty Politics scandal.

ONE News Political Editor Corin Dann says that was "a pretty big mistake".

Andrew Little Source: 1 NEWS


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