Immune Health

Using food and a focus on the microbiome to protect against respiratory illness

Our research focus

Immune Health research is demonstrating the beneficial effects of New Zealand food and beverage products to build immune defence against influenza and pollution-driven respiratory inflammation. The team leverages existing New Zealand capabilities to develop the cutting-edge tools and methodologies needed to support the creation of food and beverage products with proven immune health claims, with a focus on consumers in China’s urban metropolises. Alongside the Immune Health research sits co-funded research with industry. The Musselling up project with Sanford Ltd and the Cawthorn Institute is identifying the specific health benefits in greenshell mussells.

Dr Olivier Gasser

Olivier is the Translational Immunology Group Leader at the Malaghan Institute in Wellington and principal investigator of the Challenge Immune Health programme. His research interests lie in the bidirectional communication between the immune system and host metabolism, with a strong emphasis on the gut and its resident microbes.


Musselling up

New Zealand’s Greenshell™ mussels (GSM) are the heavyweights of our aquaculture export sector, attracting $280m in export earnings each year. While GSM are currently primarily promoted as a whole product, this iconic delicacy has many hidden talents waiting to be realised. The long-term aim of the research is to help to shift GSM from a market concentrated on relatively low price “commodity protein” products to a market position based on high-value nutrition and health products.

This research programme partners with Sanford Limited, New Zealand’s leading GSM exporter, to add even more value to this gourmet delicacy by fully understanding and proving its health benefits, including anti-inflammatory effects, improved joint and bone health and increased mobility. Sanford is a large and long-established fishing company devoted entirely to the harvesting, farming, processing, storage and marketing of quality seafood and aquaculture products. Cawthron Institute is a world leader in aquaculture research with a proven track record of turning science into commercial reality. The research will build on our longstanding, successful collaboration with Sanford, our 20 years of research towards transforming the GSM aquaculture industry, and Sanford’s food processing knowledge base. The team will include researchers from Massey University, Lincoln University and the Christchurch Clinical Studies Trust (CCST). This project will generate scientific evidence of the health benefits of GSM and assist industry to identify and develop optimal GSM-based functional food products that will appeal to the emerging market of wealthy, aging, health conscious consumers – predominantly in China.


Foodomics 2019 brings international experts on the High-Value Nutrition eco-system to New Zealand

Foodomics 2019, hosted by the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge team from the University of Auckland, will provide a platform for the country’s researchers and businesses taking premium foods for health and wellbeing to the world to gather to collaborate and learn about the latest research and opportunities.