A Wellington man has been awarded a prestigious science medal for his medical research.

His work has helped reduce asthma-related deaths and could help open up a new multibillion-dollar opportunity.

New Zealand has one of the world’s highest rates of asthma, which can be deadly.

Four people died in Melbourne from the disease following a freak pollen and dust-carrying storm on Monday.

But many of New Zealanders with asthma could owe their lives to Richard Beasley, who discovered a common treatment was actually contributing to fatalities.

He’s been given the Sir Charles Hercus medal from the Royal Society of New Zealand in recognition of his work.

“This is a bonus. I mean we are very focused on wanting to achieve, undertake research, that for us in particular challenges dogma or increases knowledge or has the potential to lead to a change in medical practice,” he says.

Mr Beasley is also helping turn honey into liquid gold. His team used medical-grade manuka honey to treat facial redness, a common skin disease that causes redness.

“At times it would feel like I had been hit by a cricket ball and it was just really hot,” says facial redness patient Chris McBride, who was part of the trial.

The treatment of facial redness is a multibillion-dollar business but the honey product is his new favourite.

“It took a lot longer than the chemical-based product, but it felt a lot better and your face feels really good,” Mr McBride says.

“I think it’s a really good model for New Zealand that in terms of natural products, that they’re just not marketed for certain conditions without any evidence base for efficacy,” Mr Beasley says.

Mr Beasley says the same clinical approach should be applied to other food products, because it could elevate them from pantry to pharmacy, creating lucrative opportunities.