Prof. Richard Faull may not be known to many of you. In fact, until last weekend, he wasn’t know to me either. I happened to be reading the latest issue of North and South Magazine, and an article on the new Centre for Brain Research at Auckland University of which Prof. Faull is the director.
What was suprising to me, is that Prof. Faull and his team (plus colleagues in Sweden) were the first to discover that diseased human brain cells can regenerate – that is they have a repair pathway. We previously didn’t know this (we thought once they died that was that), and as such it turned accepted knowledge on its head. The discovery was so astounding, that the research plan couldn’t even be written into the original grant application for fear of rejection because it was ‘dreaming’. Here is yet another case of a New Zealander conducting world class research that has ashamedly slipped under the radar.
Prof. Faull also mentioned in the article that he likes to keep the facility in NZ, because here we were small enough to remain flexible and adapt to new challenges as they arise. That reminded me of comments made by Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, that NZ’s advantage was its small size (something that some may find hard to believe) and something that Shaun Hendy has touched on with Innovation Networks – that NZ must remain flexible enough to change to any new demands, as the Finn’s did with Nokia and the mobile phone boom – that is easiest if you are small.
We like to think we punch above our weight in sport (and we do), so why don’t we take this frame of mind and apply it to other areas like science and business? I know the people active in these areas most certainly do, as do I, but the whole country should take a sense of pride in people like Richard Faull and the ground breaking work they’re doing.