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The Liggins Institute

The Liggins Institute is a large scale scientific research institute at the University of Auckland.

Named after Professor Sir Graeme Liggins, a New Zealand scientist whose work has helped premature babies around the world to survive and grow into healthy adults, our research continues his legacy, focusing on the importance of children having a healthy start to life.

The Institute is multi-disciplinary, meaning that we use the combined expertise of scientists and technicians from a wide range of disciplines, as well as clinical doctors, nurses and administrative staff to achieve our goals.

We know that having a healthy start to life helps to reduce the risk of obesity and diseases such as heart disease and diabetes in later life. We also know that noncommunicable diseases (cancer, heart disease, chronic lung disease and diabetes) are responsible for 64% of deaths globally, 80% of which are preventable. In New Zealand, noncommunicable diseases cause 91% of all deaths.

At the Liggins Institute our research is helping to understand more about:

  • how the food we eat throughout our life affects our health, wellbeing and disease risk 
  • how our time in our mother's womb (and even before) affects our risk of obesity and diseases such as diabetes and heart disease
  • how babies that are very small or born too soon grow and develop
  • breast cancer and how to treat it
  • how to improve the health of children and teenagers who are at risk of obesity and diabetes
  • why IVF children are taller, slimmer and have a healthier blood fat profile than other children
  • how twins grow and develop
  • the effect of exercise during pregnancy on health outcomes at birth and beyond
  • the genetic mechanisms through which the early life environment determines an individual’s adult body type and health profile

Working in partnership with economists, we have created a model to demonstrate the economic, health and social benefits that would be achieved through interventions at the beginning of the life course.

Working in partnership with educators, we are exploring how programmes like those run by LENScience can improve public understanding of science knowledge leading to adolescents making decisions that will support improved lifelong health for themselves, their families and their future children.