Newborn Brain Society

Announcing the NBS Honorary Fellow Award 2024: Alistair Gunn, MB ChB, PhD!

Board of Directors and Steering Committee, Newborn Brain Society

Alistair Gunn is awarded the Newborn Brain Society Honorary Fellow Award for his contributions to our understanding and current practice of neuroprotection of the newborn. Alistair’s research has been of immediate and long lasting impact in the preclinical development of HT as a treatment for HIE and the development of international clinical neuroprotection trials.

Alistair is currently an academic and clinical Professor at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences in the Dept of Physiology at Auckland University. Alistair completed his medical degree in Otago University, New Zealand in Dec 1982 and went on to train in pediatric endocrinology, being appointed to the Starship Children’s hospital in Endocrinology in 1999. His avid research interests were already clear as, before this, in 1997 Alistair was appointed as Senior Research Fellow at the University of Auckland. The late 1990s was a fast moving and exciting time to be researching brain injury at the preclinical and clinical interface. The concept of intervention with therapeutic hypothermia (HT) to improve brain injury was “crystalizing”. The key advance in knowledge in the pathogenesis of hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE) at that time was the clinical and experimental observation that: in term fetuses, newborns, and adults that injury to the brain is not a single “event” occurring at, or just after, an insult, but rather an evolving process that leads to a significant proportion of cell death well after the initial insult. 

In the late 1990s, Alistair was pivotal in developing our understanding and current practice of HT. 

In the late 1990s he used his preclinical model, the fetal sheep to define HT protocols we use today. 25-30 years ago, Alistair was able to:

  • Define the window of opportunity for HT treatment and the critical importance of starting within the “latent” phase (a period lasting ~6 h, characterized by continued EEG suppression, with delayed cerebral hypoperfusion and suppressed cerebral metabolism)  
  • The optimal duration of cooling to be 72h

Together with colleagues from around the world these early preclinical studies gave the confidence and scientific backing for the early clinical cooling trials and Alistair took a lead role in the CoolCap Study. 

Alistair is a well-known, iconic figure at international neuroscience meetings where his witty and incisive comments are anticipated and highly appreciated. At meetings, Alistair has reminded us often of the need for strict temperature control in preclinical models of adjunct neuroprotective therapies. Consistently, Alistair is a fair and generous colleague to all. Alistair is a strict but fair reviewer with a sense of humour and sparkle that makes working with him fun, engaging and productive.  

Alistair has written over 800 publications and is a regular figure on the stage at international neuroscience meetings. 

The Newborn Brain Society is delighted to have the opportunity to recognize the fundamental contributions Alistair has made to the field of neonatal neuroprotection by honoring him with the NBS Honorary Fellow Award. 

Alistair Gunn will be presented this prestigious award at the NBS Meet & Greet Breakfast at the Pediatric Societies Meeting in Toronto on May 4, 2024. To attend the event, please RSVP.

Leave a Comment