Funding research for over 30 years

The Waikato Medical Research Foundation (WMRF) is a registered charitable trust, established in 1986. We are governed by a Board of Trustees comprised of leading scientists, medical, clinical and business professionals. As a grants organisation, we enable medical researchers to uncover valuable information through our funding. Our primary purpose is to support, teach and encourage medical and other health research across the Waikato.

Over the past 30 years, we have promoted and funded more than $3 million in significant medical research throughout the Waikato. This has included studies of leukaemia, stroke, diabetes, head injury therapy, coping with disability and more.

Although the research has been based in the Waikato, the positive results from the research have been far reaching, emphasising the importance of medical research, and how it benefits not only our community, but people across the world.

Our beginning

The Waikato has always been a unique community in New Zealand, and in 1986 it was imperative to ensure research involved all of Waikato’s people. As Trust Secretary John Gillies described, “We had [the] important issue of a very exclusive community which was not going to be dealt with by the university centres. That is, we have a very large Maori population…with specific health issues”.

It was proposed that this population would benefit from increased research around their particular health needs. The founding of WMRF signalled new research directions, as well as a consolidation of research already conducted in the region, for biomedical and other health researchers.

Prior to the signing of the Trust Deed in 1986, the Trustees of the Foundation met and appointed the members of its executive. Jim Grace was appointed as ‘interim’ Chairman, and John Gillies was appointed as Secretary. The appointment of Treasurer was deferred, but Jim Grace was to also act as solicitor to the Foundation and an auditor was also appointed. An early Medical Advisory Committee (precursor to the Grants Committee) was agreed to, and the need for the ethical review of proposed research was also viewed as important.

In July of 1985, preliminary discussions about fundraising were held. It was generally felt, by these first participants, “that a consolidated fund of approximately $1 million would be necessary for a financial base”.

With this aim, and with so much of the Foundation’s proposed activities relating to finances, a Treasurer was to become paramount. At the subsequent meeting of the Board of Trustees, Brian Smith, a Chartered Accountant of Hamilton Accountancy Firm, Ernst & Whinney, was suggested as a possible Treasurer and Board member.

Links with the Waikato Postgraduate Medical Society continued to be paramount, particularly for Secretary John Gillies, who had seen the potential for a medical research body as a key member of the Postgraduate Society in the 1980s. In the late 1980s, the Postgraduate Society strengthened its relationship with the Foundation when it assisted by offering the Foundation both office space and secretarial support.

A Publicity document was made available for discussion in November of 1985. The document embodied the several aims of the Board of the Foundation in 1985, and for future years. It drew attention to local medical concerns and the ‘medical population’of the Waikato. As well as also highlighting the fact that no research body existed, which prompted the ‘drift away’ of medical practitioners and certainly did not entice future researchers to assert that medicine was in fact worth supporting. Especially as it had already achieved such successes as eradicating disease in the Western world. Importantly, it showed that medical research, which could improve health standards in general terms ‘for everybody’, was costly and needed proper funding to be conducted effectively and, especially, ethically. Finally, but most importantly, the document revealed that it was the Foundation that could make much of this possible, through sensible and wise investment policies.

This publicity went on to have the effect of attracting financial and local support, as well as new researchers in the years ahead.

From Catharine Coleborne, A History of the Waikato Medical Research Foundation (Inc) 1986-1999, Waikato Medical Research Foundation, Print House, Hamilton, 2000.


Establishing and maintaining strong relationships within the research field has always been important to the Foundation. We’re proud to collaborate with major Waikato institutions, such as Waikato Hospital, Waikato University, WINTEC, AgResearch Centre Ruakura and the Waikato Clinical School.

WMRF was established out of the need for research which involved a diverse range of people. The Foundation’s ultimate aim has, and always will be, to improve medical care in the Waikato and beyond as a result of thorough and ethical medical research. It is through medical research that we can identify complex issues to correct and seek out new opportunities to ensure our communities thrive.