Community Scoop

Otago Zebrafish Facility receives $100,000 boost

Press Release – Guardian Trust

The world-class Zebrafish Facility at the University of Otago has had another boost from the KD (Kathleen Dorothy) Kirkby Trust administered by Guardian Trust, with a donation of $100,000 to Cure Kids. The donation has funded a significant expansion …

Julia Horsfield, Director of the Otago University Zebrafish Facility with Dr Ian Morrison
Julia Horsfield, Director of the Otago University Zebrafish Facility with Dr Ian Morrison

Media Release December 2011


The world-class Zebrafish Facility at the University of Otago has had another boost from the KD (Kathleen Dorothy) Kirkby Trust administered by Guardian Trust, with a donation of $100,000 to Cure Kids. The donation has funded a significant expansion of the facility and will greatly increase its capacity to conduct vital medical studies including cancer research.

Cure Kids’ fundraising and business development director Josie Spillane says the Tauranga-based charitable trust is a long-term supporter of medical research at the university, and the latest donation brings its total contribution to Cure Kids and the University of Otago to $285,000 since 2005.

“This is exceptional, and underlines the strong commitment of the KD Kirkby trustees, supported by Guardian Trust, to medical research and the University of Otago specialists. They have a special empathy for research into children’s illnesses, particularly leukaemia,” says Ms Spillane.

Craig Roebuck, Guardian Trust Tauranga client manager, knew Kathleen Kirby during her lifetime and has subsequently worked closely with her nephew and great nephew. He says the support the trust has given in this area and the work that they are doing is something she would have been thrilled to have been associated with.

“Kath had a real interest in the health of the young and supported many associated organisations in her lifetime,” says Craig.

Guardian Trust’s general manager of personal client services Philip Morgan Rees echoes this sentiment saying, “A properly structured and well-managed charitable trust is fundamental to long-term sustainable philanthropic giving. The KD Kirkby Trust exemplifies how such trusts can be used to further value causes long after the lifetimes of their founders”.

Julia Horsfield Otago Zebrafish Facility (OZF) director, paid tribute to the KD Kirkby Trust for its outstanding support.

“The extra equipment purchased with the $100,000 grant has trebled the space available to house fish in the facility. This means we can massively increase the medical research we do. Projects investigating childhood leukaemia and childhood developmental disease will be able to expand, and a new neuroscience project can also go ahead. We will now also be able to launch new projects in the facility, including a study which seeks to understand how stem cells develop,” says Dr Horsfield.

Dr Horsfield attributes the Trust’s ongoing support as enabling them to deliver great outcomes for child health in New Zealand. The OZF has attracted top-flight personnel, with six researchers holding prestigious Marsden and Health Research Council grants.

The head of the University of Otago Pathology Department, Professor Ian Morison, says the expansion of the OZF will benefit their research significantly, as well as many scientists throughout the Dunedin School of Medicine and the Division of Health Sciences.

He says zebrafish provide an excellent model to study how children develop, and why development occasionally goes wrong.

“For our research into childhood leukaemia, zebrafish allow us to test individual genes and to unravel the origins of this devastating disease. We have recently discovered one of the most common gene abnormalities in childhood leukaemia, and since most cases of the disease develop before birth, we can use zebrafish to study why this change is important in blood and leukaemia development,” says Professor Morison.

Zebrafish Research – Fact Sheet
• Zebrafish have been used in genetics research around the world for the last 30 years. Zebrafish research is conducted at respected institutions including Ivy League universities and medical research facilities;
• The facility at the University of Otago has an international presence and works with international clinicians, cancer researchers and other zebrafish researchers;
• The Otago University Zebrafish facility (OZF) was completed in March 2011 and has 1,200 tanks set up for research;
• Zebrafish have the same cancer-causing genes as humans, making them a useful tool to understand the molecular pathways underlying cancer. As cancer is caused by mutations in genes, the similarities between zebrafish and humans helps researchers identify new drug targets;
• The OZF is part of a wider Australasian zebrafish community;
• Multiple research projects are being conducted at OZF. By looking at zebrafish from varied approaches researchers are developing an in-depth understanding of cancer;
• For more information on the lab visit:

About KD Kirkby Trust

Kathleen Dorothy Kirkby (nee Anderson) was born in 1902, the daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Anderson. She had two brothers and one sister. Robert Anderson, later Sir Robert, was born in Queenstown and began his working life at the newly established Southland Building and Investment Society. Over time he farmed as well as working in local body politics, shipping and banking.

Kathleen married Herbert Wynn Kirkby in 1932. The wedding took place at Anderson Park.

The early years of their marriage were spent in Dunedin and in 1936 the couple settled in Tauranga, where Wynn owned a road construction business. The couple did not have a family and Kathleen put much time and effort into serving with the Red Cross and collecting artworks. Kathleen had a philosophy of giving a hand up as opposed to a hand out, and was active in encouraging children to strive to achieve greater things.
About Guardian Trust

Guardian Trust has been serving New Zealanders for nearly 130 years and is a market leader in trust & estates and wealth management. As one of New Zealand’s foremost trustee companies, it specialises in asset management and protection, providing wide-ranging advice and expertise in philanthropy, estate planning and administration, financial planning, and personal and corporate trusts.

Guardian Trust is the country’s pre-eminent provider of philanthropic services, administering 460 charitable trusts that provided in excess of $32 million in funding in 2010/2011. In real terms, Guardian Trust has distributed grants on behalf of its clients to more than 530 charities across the country in the last three years alone.

Guardian Trust is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Trust Company, a leading independent Australian trustee.

About Cure Kids

Cure Kids was established over 35 years ago to address the lack of research into life-threatening childhood illnesses in New Zealand. During that time we have invested over $26 million in vital medical research. This research has helped save many young lives and improved the quality of life for thousands of children.

Cure Kids has funded research advancements in diseases such as childhood Leukaemia, Long QT Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, cot death, genetic research, and severe asthma. Today, we are more committed than ever to help find answers to the many cruel, life-threatening illnesses that devastate the lives of young children and their families.

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