The Liggins Institute has been given its largest ever single grant - almost $3 million from a foundation founded by US philanthropist Julian Robertson.
The research centre, based at Auckland University, focuses on the long-term consequences of early-life events, such as mother and baby health, nutrition and development.
The $2.7m from the Aotearoa Foundation, set up by Mr Robertson, will be used to train the next generation of researchers.
The Liggins Institute's Jane Harding said it's a game changer, and allows them to take on PhD students or early career doctors to build for the future.
"Funding that is available is almost always for a particular research project, it's not to support students assisting with those projects and develop them for a very long-term future," Professor Harding said.
"We're talking about investment that won't pay off for perhaps decades. And that's not the kind of thing our current funders are able to fund - they're focused on particular projects."
The Liggins Institute was established in 2001 by Professor Peter Gluckman supported by Professors Murray Mitchell, Stewart Gilmour and Jane Harding, to establish a centre for research into developmental biology and its application to improving human health, according to its website.