Peter Gluckman, a pediatrician and endocrinologist who is now dean of medicine at the University of Auckland, began studying neonatal asphyxia in the late 1980s. He found that two to three days after such an insult, the brain produces growth factors including IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) to counter the apoptotic cascade induced by the asphyxia.

To advance Gluckman's work, NeuronZ was set up in 1996 by Auckland UniServices Ltd., which owns and develops the university's intellectual property. To date, UniServices has invested $750,000 in NeuronZ to develop IGF-1 and other compounds for neuronal rescue.