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Dr Augustine Chen

My current research focus involves the co-development of a transformative diagnostic test using Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) with applications in medical, agriculture and environmental sensing sectors. This innovation has attracted pre-seed funding to undertake proof-of-concept experiments towards multimodal signal detection (genetic and epigenetic changes) in circulating tumour DNA. Through minor modification, this test could also be expanded to include other sample types in non-medical sectors and I am currently pursuing collaborations towards such applications.

My speciality has always centred around developing, using or combining existing and emerging methodologies to answer a variety of research questions. This included technical expertise utilising

Next Generation Sequencing, high-throughput imaging and drug screening assays, siRNA and miRNA delivery, mouse necropsy as well as standard molecular biology and cell culture techniques.
To date, I have undertaken a range of biomedical research, investigating various aspects of gene regulation in human diseases such as cancer and virus infection (HBV, HPV and norovirus). Such approaches have enabled the identification of disease states and targetable vulnerabilities and has led to the discovery of putative therapeutic drugs (which led to a provisional patent filing) and the development of a diagnostic test for a NZ company (which attracted joint funding from the Ministry of Science and Innovation Technology Transfer Voucher Scheme).

Growing up in Malaysia

Augustine grew up in Malaysia, he always liked biology and was just curious about things around him. His Dad was a nurse and became a trainer for medical assistants and then principal of a training school. Medical assistants were hugely valued in Malaysia due to the shortage of doctors. Based in a rural setting Augustine was able to visit his Dad at work and just look around. An ideal environment to spark an interest in biology.

Outside the lab Augustine likes fly fishing, socialising with family and friends, and gardening.


Hannah, S. J., Chen, A., Day, R. C., & Black, M. A. (2022). Improvising read accuracy for ctDNA diagnostics. Proceedings of the Genetics Otago (GO) Annual Symposium. Retrieved from

Clarke, R. M., Hess, A., Caulton, A., Brauning, R., McRae, K., Chen, A., & Clarke, S. (2022, August). Simultaneous investigation of genomic regions of interest: The use of adaptive sampling. Poster session presented at the Applied Genetics/Genomics in Breeding Technologies Satellite Meeting: Queenstown Research Week, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Bhandari, B. K., Lim, C. S., Remus, D. M., Chen, A., van Dolleweerd, C., & Gardner, P. P. (2021). Analysis of 11,430 recombinant protein production experiments reveals that protein yield is tunable by synonymous codon changes of translation initiation sites. PLoS Computational Biology, 17(10), e1009461. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009461

Bougen-Zhukov, N., Nouri, Y., Godwin, T., Taylor, M., Hakkaart, C., Single, A., Brew, T., Permina, E., Chen, A., Black, M. A., & Guilford, P. (2019). Allosteric AKT inhibitors target synthetic lethal vulnerabilities in E-cadherin-deficient cells. Cancers, 11(9), 1359. doi: 10.3390/cancers11091359

Beetham, H., Chen, A., Telford, B. J., Single, A., Jarman, K. E., Lackovic, K., … Guilford, P. (2019). A high-throughput screen to identify novel synthetic lethal compounds for the treatment of E-cadherin-deficient cells. Scientific Reports, 9, 12511. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-48929-0

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