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Genomics Aotearoa: a step-change for NZ genomics

Friday, 18 August 2017

The establishment of a new collaborative platform for genomics and bioinformatics was announced by the Minister for Science and Innovation, the Hon Paul Goldsmith, on Friday 18 August 2017. 

Genomics Aotearoa (GA) will ensure New Zealand is internationally participating and leading in the rapidly developing fields of:

  • Genomics – the study of the genetic information in cells and organisms, and bioinformatics; and
  • Bioinformatics – the development of methods and software tools for understanding the biological data derived from genomics.

GA is an alliance between Partners: Universities Auckland, Massey and Otago and Crown Research Institutes AgResearch, ESR, Landcare Research and Plant & Food, together with 32 Associates: organisations including both researchers and end users of genomics and bioinformatics.

GA will cement national collaborations between genomics and bioinformatics researchers and users, across theme areas of health, environment and primary production – covering all life sciences of relevance to New Zealand’s economic, environmental and social wellbeing.

Collaboration will be underpinned through delivery of a national genomics data repository and bioinformatics analytical platform. GA will strengthen New Zealand’s international linkages, sharing existing collaborations through research activities and growing new alliances. International linkages will ensure GA operates at a global best practice standard.

Te Ao Māori will be at the centre of GA activities, including development of an indigenous genomics platform which embeds Māori management of indigenous genomics research practice and data. GA will deliver to the goals of Vision Mātauranga (VM), benefiting Māori through improved delivery of indigenous innovation, taiao, hauora and matāuranga, including through research projects and resource development undertaken by and for Māori.

GA will grow skills and capability through sending New Zealanders overseas to acquire new techniques, running workshops and courses which uses national and international instructors, supporting and growing research teams and engaging Māori in genomics research.

GA will undertake a suite of nationally significant and enabling research activities, including developing:

  • An understanding of the variation in the genomes of New Zealand population, which will be used by health providers to improve diagnosis and prognosis of disease and genetic conditions (contributing to VM Hauora);
  • Capability to determine how well an environment is functioning from analysis of DNA in samples of air, water or soil. Tools developed will be used by local and central Government to report on the state of the environment and determine how best to respond to environmental threats such as climate change or invasive species (contributing to VM Taiao);
  • Capability to use genomic knowledge of indigenous and pest species to inform conservation management of our endangered plants and animals by DoC, MfE and MPI (contributing to VM Taiao);
  • Capability to document very complex genomes (genotype) and understand how these affect the characteristics of an organism (phenotype). End users will employ this knowledge to develop targeted pest eradication methods and to improve breeding of both existing (such as cattle, sheep, radiata pine, apples, kiwifruit) and emerging primary production species (such as mānuka, blue cod, kiwiberry) (contributing to VM indigenous economy).

The linkages of GA Partners and Associates with end users, including iwi and community groups, Ministries and Councils, District Health Boards and hospitals, breeders and primary producers, will ensure that the benefits from the new genomics and bioinformatics capabilities and knowledge developed will readily translate to economic, environmental and social benefits spread throughout New Zealand.

Further information