Our Team

Meet the team focusing on immune dysfunction research to help understand, diagnose, treat post-acute infection syndromes

Dr Anna Brooks – Co-Founder, Principal Investigator

I am an immunologist, flow cytometry specialist, and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Auckland.

As well as my passion for dissecting the complexities of the immune system, I am also a patient advocate, educator and am actively involved in both Long Covid and ME/CFS support and advocacy groups. I sit on the World Health Network Long COVID Advisory Group (global) and the National Advisory for ME (ANZMES) committees, as well as provide support to our Long Covid and Long Covid kids groups. I have been invited to present at numerous national and international conferences, workshops, and delivered podcasts and various public lectures to raise awareness about Long Covid and the latest research advancements.

I have over 15 years experience in human immunology, with specific training and expertise in advanced immune cell characterisation using leading edge technologies – called flow cytometry. I spent the early part of my career focused on the technological aspects of dissecting immune function, including managing and now directing our flow cytometry facility at the University of Auckland. I am proud and excited to be able to apply these skills to better understand the underlying immune dysfunction of Long Covid and the relationship with ME/CFS, using latest immune cell characterisation tools.

Dr David Davies-Payne – Co-Founder

I am a paediatric radiologist with 20 years specialist experience, now only working part-time remotely for Starship Children’s Hospital and on extended leave from private practice.

I started to develop symptoms of Long Covid in Jan 2021, possibly after an asymptomatic infection a few months prior.

Having been taught at Otago Medical School in the early 90s that ME/CFS was a biological disease (NZ’s “Tapanui flu” outbreak), I found 30 years later that globally, biomedical research progress had largely stalled.

The biopsychosocial disease model has failed to have any meaningful impact, with the research focusing on psychosocial factors as causative now regarded as low or very low quality (UK NICE 2021).

With the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, postviral disease will dominate the healthcare environment in NZ and other countries for the next 30 years. It is imperative to fund appropriate research — to diagnose, treat and ultimately to cure.

Rohan Botica BCom (Ngaati Tuuwharetoa) – Co-Founder

I have worked in Business Development in International Trade & Investment and in Construction.

An ME/CFS diagnosis following a cytomegalovirus infection has put my work and activities on the back-burner, as I focus on getting back to optimal health.

In this time I’ve experienced firsthand the dire need for scientific advancements for post-viral illnesses, and have been engaged in community advocacy, having met with members of parliament to discuss these issues.

Unfortunately, action is either slow or non-existent, so I’ve teamed up with Dr Brooks and Dr Davies-Payne to create this organisation and actually get things moving.

Daniel Freeman – Lived experience

My background is as an Ophthalmic Technician at one of New Zealand’s largest private ophthalmology practices. Prior to this, I worked as a Pharmacy Technician. I am based in Christchurch, and am a proud South Islander. 

I caught COVID-19 in June 2022 and went on to develop Long Covid. The sudden and significant deterioration in my health has left me unable to work since late July 2022. I am mostly housebound or bedridden and my main symptoms are similar (if not identical) to those experienced by people with ME/CFS. 

As a Long Covid sufferer, my focus is to bring attention to this crippling illness, and the impact it has on the lives of everyone affected by it. At this time, there is no successful treatment or cure for Long Covid. Hence why it is imperative we continue to fundraise and research until we have a solution.

Previous Team Members

Camren Cullen MSc – Lead Research Assistant

My areas of research are in genetics and biomedicine. I recently finished a Masters in Biomedicine where I focused on producing CRISPR-Cas9 mediated knockouts in pancreatic cancer to increase the efficiency of chemo treatments.

After my Masters I began working as a trainee medical laboratory technician, working towards a medical laboratory science registration. During this time I tested COVID samples and developed a passion for understanding COVID. This is what lead me to become a research assistant working with Dr Anna Brooks on the Long Covid and ME/CFS study.

I am very excited to work on this study, as understanding human disease and illness has always been a passion of mine and I am interested in learning how Long Covid affects people and our community.

Lina Kieger – Visiting Intern

I am currently in my sixth year of Pharmacy and my second year of my Master of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Strasbourg in France.

My interest in immunology and immune diseases has developed during my studies. In this context, I did a 5-month internship in 2021 at the biomedical center of the University of Uppsala in Sweden, where I was able to work on a project concerning neuro-immune relationships in autoimmunity, and more specifically in the context of type 1 diabetes by studying the role of macrophages in the destruction of b-islets.

Parallel to my studies, I have been working in a pharmacy since the pandemic’s onset. Being close to patients and at the forefront of this pandemic, I realized the impact of COVID-19 on populations and society. I was concerned about the increasing number of patients with persistent symptoms several months after infection. For this internship, I wanted to better understand Long Covid and the immune deficiencies behind it. When I was looking for a team working on this subject around the world, Dr Anna Brooks’ team was the one I found the most inclined to help me in this project. I contacted her to do my internship in her laboratory and left France to work within her team. I will be working with her team until June 2023.