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Genetics research centres, themes, groups, and labs, at Otago

Research centres

The Bioethics Centre

The Bioethics Centre is a locus of excellent research, teaching and discussion in bioethics, which brings together staff and students from a range of academic disciplines and professional backgrounds.

The Brain Health Research Centre

Genomic and genetic research into the developmental basis of neurological disorders.

Centre for Neuroendocrinology (CNE)

The CNE comprises ten research groups focused upon understanding how the brain controls hormone levels and how hormones control brain function. A University of Otago Research Centre of Excellence, the CNA is the largest cluster of neuroendocrinologists in the Southern Hemisphere. Investigations within CNE laboratories utilise a wide range of neuroscience methodologies ranging from molecular biology and genetically-manipulated rodent models to electrophysiological, optogenetic, morphological, cell imaging and whole animal approaches.

Centre for Translational Cancer Research

Bringing about rapid improvements in cancer outcomes by addressing defined clinical problems. CTCR's research is accelerating the development and testing of new drugs and diagnostic tools that directly assist clinicians and their patients. Its work covers: drug development, immunotherapy, childhood cancers, diagnostic test design and personalised medicine.

Christchurch Heart Institute

Genomic research in heart disease, and inherited heart disease risk factors in Māori and Pasifika.

Centre for Society, Governance & Science /New Zealand Law Foundation Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies

The New Zealand Law Foundation Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies is the only New Zealand-based research centre that examines the legal, ethical and policy issues around new technologies, including biotechnology.

Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research

Aims to reduce the prevalence, and to improve the management, of diabetes and obesity by finding new ways to prevent and treat these conditions. By striving for research excellence and encouraging international collaboration we can bring the greatest benefit to New Zealanders and the wider world.

Sir John Walsh Research Institute

Antimicrobial drug resistance and drug discovery. Genes involved in growth and development of the head and neck.

Webster Centre for Infectious Diseases

A multidisciplinary research centre addressing important problems caused by infectious diseases in New Zealand today, including through molecular solutions.

Research themes

Allan Wilson at Otago: Human evolutionary genomics

Explores the health and histories of New Zealand populations. Using evolutionary genomics we study humans, plants and animals, past and present.

Asia-Pacific Biocultural Health: Past and present

Investigating fundamental questions of the human past that have pressing implications for human health today in Aotearoa, the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Agriculture at Otago

Increasing both production and the value of our primary products, while minimising the impact of agriculture on the environment.

Polar Environments

Cold adaptation and responses to ocean acidification.


Christchurch Health & Development Study (Psychological Medicine, UOC)

Genetics of psychosocial development. Epigenomic analysis.

Carney Centre for Pharmacogenomics (Pathology, UOC)

Genomics of adverse drug reactions. Pharmacogenetics.

Chromosome Structure & Development Group

Department of Pathology, DSM

Researching how proteins necessary for chromosome architecture contribute to gene expression, animal development and cancer.

Clinical Genetics Group

Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Dunedin School of Medicine

Genetics of developmental disorders including conditions affecting the development of the brain, skeleton and biliary tract.

Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit

The Research Unit runs the ongoing Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (also known as the Dunedin Study) which is a detailed study of human health, development and behaviour, founded by Dr Phil A. Silva. The Dunedin Study has followed the lives of 1037 babies born between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973 Queen Mary Maternity Hospital, Dunedin, New Zealand, since their birth. The Study is now in its fifth decade and has produced over 1150 publications and reports, many of which have influenced or helped inform policy makers in New Zealand and overseas.

Mackenzie Cancer Research Group

Familial breast and ovarian cancer genetics; Genetics and tumour pathology.

Reproduction, Genomics and Development Research Group

Genomic and epigenetic approaches related to issues in fertility, reproduction, development and growth.

Biological Anthropology Research Group

Human health, history and variation past and present.

Wellington Epilepsy Research Group

Identifying new and refining emerging epilepsy syndromes and discovering their genetic causes.

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Development Biology and Genomics Laboratory

Developmental gene regulation and idiopathic disease using mouse models; chordate whole body regeneration.

Gene Structure and Function Laboratory (Pathology, UOC)

Pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics. Psychiatric genetics. Applications of nanopore DNA sequencing. Structure and function of G-quadruplexes. Epigenomic analysis.

The Laboratory for Evolution and Development

How the developmental processes that make an animal from an embryo change over evolutionary time to give different forms of animal.

Beck Lab: Development and Regeneration

Developing model systems to understand the molecular genetics of disease, development and regeneration.

Eaton-Rye Lab Photosynthesis

Using cyanobacterial model systems to study oxygenic photosynthesis.

Fineran Lab: Molecular Microbiology

CRISPR-Cas biology. Interactions between bacteria, phages and mobile genetic elements.

Jones Lab: Otago Vascular Research Group

Genetics and epigenetics of cardiovascular disease.

Hughes Lab: Lysosomal function and neurodegenerative disease

Gene therapy and neuronal function in the childhood brain diseases, Batten disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Gemmell lab: Evolutionary, Conservation and Reproductive Biology

Melds genomic and reproductive biology to address fundamental questions in ecology and evolution, while also producing practical benefits in the conservation and biosecurity arenas.

Hore lab: Epigenetics and Development

Understanding the impact of epigenetic memory upon development and the germline. A number of model systems are targeted, including naive pluripotent stem cells and divergent vertebrate species.

Matisoo-Smith & Knapp Labs for Ancient Human and Ecological Genetics

Understanding human and animal adaptations to the Island Pacific.

Macknight Lab

Plant molecular genetics. Molecular and genetic understanding of plant traits of agricultural importance.

Morison Lab: Epigenetics and cancer

Genetics and epigenetics of blood disorders, placenta and cancer.

Otago Palaeogenetics Laboratory

Explores ancient DNA, evolution and palaeoecology of extinct fauna, effects of climate change and human impact on past ecosystems, palaeoenvironmental DNA, conservation biology, fisheries induced evolution, conservation palaeontology/palaeoecology. 

Robertson Lab: Conservation Genomics and Wildlife Management

Using genetics and genomics to address conservation and wildlife management issues in NZ native species.

Spencer Lab: Evolutionary genetics

Mathematical population-genetic models incorporating epigenetic phenomena; Population-genetic models of selection; Using phylogenetic trees of molluscs & birds to understand evolutionary processes

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Flow Cytometry Facility

Multi-colour analysis, viability, cell cycle analysis, fluorescent proteins, flow FISH, apoptosis, signal transduction pathways (phosphorylation), autophagy, oncosis, necrosis, functional analysis, rare event analysis, translocation, FRET, bacteria, CBA, insects, neurons, NADPH, DNA and RNA content, transcription factors and much more!

Otago Genomics and Bioinformatics Facility

Otago Genomics delivers end-to-end customised genomics solutions to researchers and industry using high-throughput Illumina sequencing platforms HiSeq 2500 and MiSeq; and the nanoString nCounter Analysis System.

Otago Bioinformatics offers a wide range of data analysis services customised to individual project needs. These include transcriptomics, genome assembly and annotation, variant calling, SNP detection, and metagenomics.

Centre for Protein Research

The Centre for Protein Research (CPR) is a facility that is supported by the Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology & Immunology, and is available to all researchers within the University of Otago. The CPR combines both a service facility and a user laboratory that supports research projects largely within the University of Otago. Analyses for external institutes are also provided.

Otago Zebrafish Facility

The University of Otago’s Zebrafish Facility (OZF) offers researchers access to one of the most technically advanced zebrafish facilities in Australasia.

Otago Viral Vector Facility, Brain Research NZ

Design and production of recombinant viral vectors for gene therapy and functional studies.