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Donia Macartney-Coxson

Dr Donia Macartney-Coxson is a Senior Scientist in the Health Programme at ESR. Donia is an Honorary Research Fellow, in The Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington.


Donia earned her PhD in microbial and molecular genetics and a BSc (Hons) in biological sciences from Birmingham University, United Kingdom.


Donia leads a research project in the area of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Donia says the team has a particular interest in investigating epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation and miRNA, as markers of disease to aid clinicians. “Obesity and type 2 diabetes are complex diseases. Not all individuals who develop such diseases are the same – they will develop the illness in different ways and have different outcomes and responses to treatment,” she says. “We believe epigenetic markers could aid in clinical decision-making and treatment options, as well as increase our understanding of disease.” As an extension of her work on type 2 diabetes, Donia is a member of another ESR project led by Dr Jeff Foote, “Activating communities to reduce the burden and inequalities associated with type 2 diabetes”. This project aims to build a systems map of the multiple factors influencing type 2 diabetes, from government policy through to community and individual levels; with the intention of identifying the points of maximum leverage for disease reduction. Donia is part of the Science Leadership Team for the National Science Challenge Healthier Lives – He Oranga Hauora, which was launched in December 2015. The vision of the Challenge is “Healthier lives for all New Zealanders – a new New Zealand in which the burden of non-communicable diseases (such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity) has been substantially reduced and equity in the health of the population, particularly in relation to ethnicity and socioeconomic position has been achieved”.