COVER STORY : KEA’S World Class Kiwis – Networks and Know-how

Richard Faull
Supreme World Class Award
Sponsored by IRL

It’s clear from the way Richard Faull handles the special plasticised brain he uses for teaching that his long-time love affair with the body’s most complex organ hasn’t lost any of its excitement.
It started back in the 1960s with an introduction during his third year of Med School in Dunedin and reached new pinnacle last year as Faull’s team moved into brand new Centre for Brain Research in the University of Auckland Medical School. Between lies years of research that has provided new insights into degenerative brain disorders (especially Huntington’s Disease) and led to groundbreaking discoveries as to the regenerative capacity of human brain cells.
The accolades that have flowed from such world-leading research have left Faull slightly bemused – it’s not where he might have predicted his journey from small Taranaki town might lead. But growing up in Tikorangi where his parents ran the general store with strong spirit of community service has proved big influence in his life.
“All five of us boys helped out with deliveries after school and while we’ve all gone into different fields, that background of being concerned about people and serving the community has given us some of the critical essentials for our careers.”
It helped inform how his own research developed in close collaboration with the families of Huntington’s sufferers. And it was entirely thanks to these relationships that he was able to build up the resource that lies at the heart of the new research centre – brain bank unique in its highly codified and carefully documented nature.
The generosity of families who donated the brains of their loved ones to research that might help uncover more about what is an inheritable and highly debilitating disease was what helped Faull make the link between pathology and person. Working backwards from damage evident in the brain to how family members saw how that had manifested in behaviour, mood or motor abilities uncovered unexpected connections.
Now he wants to apply the same sort of joined up thinking on larger scale. It’s why the new centre is less destination than the start of new journey. And it’s one he wants whole bunch of specialists to join him on.
“We have over 40 research groups involved; we have neurologists and neuro-surgeons, psychologists on board – the full profession. It means we can tie what we are finding in to the clinicians, to the patients.
“We could only do this in small country with all the relevant communities (hospital, medical school, university) close to each other. And it’s completely logical thing to do – but actually getting all these people to talk, to interact, in way it’s completely revolutionary.”
Being able to approach problems in novel and imaginative ways is something Kiwis do well, says Faull. Okay – the number 8 wire cliché is part of it, but as he discovered when he started working with top scientists in the US, our ability to work from fundamentals also serves us well.
“One of the things about New Zealanders who’ve excelled overseas in science is that when we go to conference, we talk about fundamentals. I don’t get erudite about one particular gene but talk about the concepts of what we’ve found – the big picture stuff.”
It was this that helped him question the existing dogma that human brains lacked the regenerative capacity (stored stem cells) found in other mammals – finding that attracted fair bit of flak when it made the cover of the prestigious Science magazine in 2007. “Question dogma” is advice he passes on to his students.
“Always ask simple questions – you may think you know nothing, but you know lot because your mind is uncluttered. Ask because you find out things you can’t dream of. Science is about passion, enthusiasm, imagination, thinking and going down paths you never even contemplated. The more challenge there is … then the bigger your contribution.”
And, he adds, it’s collaboration rather than ego that drives discovery.
“We have huge task ahead. The brain is the most complex organ in the human body and we’re not going to solve all its mysteries in lifetime. The only way to succeed is to create an enquiring environment and take people with you.”



Julian Robertson
Friend of New Zealand Award
Sponsored by Westpac

“Good leaders make things happen. They imbue their mark on society by motivating others to do the good things they espouse,” says billionaire philanthropist Julian H Robertson. The definition fits him.
The internationally successful 77-year-old New York-based hedge fund investor from North Carolina has been making things happen in New Zealand ever since he and his wife Josie “fell in love” with the country, back in 1978.
“We had,” he says, “sort of dropped out when we visited back then. But then we made lot of friends in the Auckland area, we loved north Auckland in particular, and travelled all over the country. And on that trip we also conceived son we had never expected to have.” The whole New Zealand experience was thoroughly positive. “All my family love New Zealand,” he adds, so making the commitment to spend “a lot more time” in the country followed easily enough.
Already leading New York investor, Robertson made it big time in the 1980s as one of the most successful and dominant figures in the United States’ financial markets. After his initial trip to New Zealand he dropped back in and co-founded Tiger Management LLC, hedge fund that became one of the world’s largest.
Then in March 2000, with personal fortune understood to be around US$1 billion, he closed his famed fund. His “retirement” period has, however, according to US Fortune magazine, proved to be even more personally rewarding. Robertson’s investment fortunes have, since he moved from managing other people’s money to managing his own, mushroomed.
His reputation for canny investment and for spotting and developing investment talent, resulted in him re-inventing his Tiger Fund. He told Fortune back in January 2008 that after he wound up the original fund in 2000 he decided he wanted to “continue to have some young people around”. He didn’t, he said, want to go directly “from age 70 to Methuselah”. So, he kept his New York office space, “seeded few guys” who had worked for him when he had “started new hedge fund” and the exercise succeeded beyond his “wildest dreams”.
Robertson credits his retirement life success to the individuals he seeded into his new Tiger Fund operations. Colleague and Morgan Creek Capital Management hedge fund founder Mark Yusko has called Robertson “the greatest identifier, backer, encourager and developer of talent that our business has ever seen”.
Robertson’s personal business philosophy is straightforward. “Be totally honest, make intelligent decisions and then do the best you can to carry those decisions out.” An outcome of his stunning success as an investor is commitment to philanthropy in the communities in which he and his wife Josie live and work.
New Zealand has benefited both from their philanthropic generosity and Robertson’s business acumen. He has developed two world-class gold resorts and lodges – Kauri Cliffs in Northland and Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay – and owns the iconic TeAwa and Dry River wineries. His thinking behind both ventures is to lift New Zealand’s global profile as top-end tourist and sporting destination and to promote the country’s wines in the US market. Last year he added Matakauri Lodge near Queenstown to his portfolio of tourist destination investments.
The Robertsons are enthusiastic supporters of the arts. They have gifted almost 20 major works, including p

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