Disease control research at the University of Otago is extensive. It includes communicable and non-communicable diseases, developmental factors, and methods of treatment.
Visit the listings of our research groups below, or check out our featured projects.
Featured research projects
AIDS Epidemiology Group
The AIDS Epidemiology Group (AEG) has been responsible for national surveillance of AIDS and HIV infection in New Zealand since 1989.
Our research aims:
- Monitor the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in New Zealand through ongoing surveillance
- Develop, and when appropriate, to apply, new methods of monitoring and evaluation, and
- Contribute to the wider knowledge of HIV infection and AIDS
Brain Health Research Centre
Scientists at the Brain Health Research Centre are undertaking cutting-edge internationally recognised research into the workings of the brain in health and disease, and are developing new treatments for neurological disorders.
Cancer and Chronic Conditions (C3) research group
The Cancer and Chronic Conditions (C3) research group is a collaborative group of researchers working at the interface between public health, health services research, and clinical medicine. Our work includes a range of projects aimed at reducing the impact of cancer and chronic conditions on population health and health inequalities through policy and health system change.
Ko te rōpū rangahau mō te Mate Pukupuku me ngā Māuiui Tūroa (C3), he kāhui kairangahau e mahi tahi ana ki waenga i ngā ao o te rāngai hauroa tūmatanui, te rangahau ratonga hauora me te rongoā haumanu. Kei te kōkiri mātau i ētahi kaupapa e mahi ana ki te whakaiti i te pānga o te mate pukupuku me ngā māuiui tūroa ki te hauora o te taupori me ngā ōritenga kore o te hauora mā te whakarerekē i ngā kaupapahere me te pūnaha hauora.
Cancer Research at Otago
At Otago we have a huge number of researchers working to advance the prevention, detection, and management of cancer in New Zealand, and beyond.
Explore our cancer research:
- Alphabetical listing of our cancer research groups
- Cancer at the cellular level
- Diagnosis and treatment
- Health policy
- Recovery and rehabilitation
- Susceptibility and prevention
Our cancer research website also has informative articles and short videos of researchers presenting easy-to-understand outlines of their research.
Cardiovascular Disease at Otago
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the collective term for diseases of the heart and blood vessels. CVD kills more than one in three New Zealanders, and is responsible for more than 30,000 hospital admissions each year.
Cardiovascular Disease at Otago is a directory of research groups and collaborations relevant to CVD research associated with the University of Otago.
We aim to reduce the health burden of CVD through cultivating research excellence and improving health policy, workforce training, and practice.
Explore our cardiovascular disease research:
- Alphabetical listing of our CVD research groups
- Advances in treatments
- Diagnostic tools
- Health inequalities
- Population and community prevention
- Predispositions and risk factors
Our CVD website also has informative articles and short videos of researchers presenting easy-to-understand outlines of their research.
Centre for International Health
The Centre for International Health facilitates and promotes research to contribute to the understanding and improvement of health in under-resourced countries, and focuses on postgraduate training and strategic mentorship of leaders.
Centre for Neuroendocrinology
The CNE comprises ten research groups focused upon understanding how the brain controls hormone levels and how hormones control brain function.
We have three themes of research that focus upon understanding the neural regulation.
- Body weight and metabolism
Centre for Translational Cancer Research—Te Aho Matatū
Translational cancer research bridges the gap between laboratory-based science and treatment in the clinic. We now have sufficient knowledge in the fields of cancer biology, molecular biology, and immunology to make a significant impact on the treatment and management of cancer.
We're bringing about rapid improvements in cancer outcomes by addressing defined clinical problems. Our research is accelerating the development and testing of new drugs and diagnostic tools that directly assist clinicians and their patients.
Centre for Pacific Health (Va'a o Tautai)
The Va'a o Tautai – Centre for Pacific Health is home to a dedicated team of Pacific and non-Pacific researchers working in areas of importance to Pacific communities in New Zealand and internationally.
Pacific health is a holistic concept that encompasses broader ideas on well-being to encompass physical, mental, and spiritual aspects. With more than 20 different cultures captured under the umbrella of ‘Pacific’, there are unique approaches to health that mean health care, health systems and health services can be enriched with further understanding of Pacific-specific approaches to health.
Child Health Research at Otago
Child Health Research at Otago gathers together the research expertise and activities of scientists investigating health issues primarily affecting our youngest New Zealanders.
We also partner with a wide range of stakeholders, communities, institutions, and nations beyond New Zealand to collaborate on health issues of global significance.
Explore our child health research:
- Alphabetical listing of our research groups
- Genetics and health
- Healthy pregnancies
- Healthy childhoods
- Childhood conditions and treatments
- Inequalities in child health
Christchurch Heart Institute
Here at the Christchurch Heart Institute we help save thousands of lives through research into improved diagnosis, better prediction and advanced treatments for heart disease. Our team of internationally-renowned experts directly play a role in increasing the survival of New Zealanders with heart disease.
Our research focus:
- New blood tests for heart attack diagnosis and prognosis
- Using new methods for treating heart failure and improving outcomes
- Understanding the genetics of heart disease; why heart disease runs in some families
Co-Search: COVID-19 Research Collaborative
Guiding an effective and fair COVID-19 pandemic response in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Co-Search is a collaboration of researchers, universities, community organisations and a Crown Research Institute. It is led by Professor Michael Baker and Dr Amanda Kvalsvig of the Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington.
D4—Diagnostics, Drugs, Devices and Discovery focuses on translational research for improving care.
- Creating novel point-of-care diagnostics and devices enabling targeted and selective treatments
- Developing smart drug delivery systems and devices to improve and optimise therapy
- Drug discovery for innovative treatments
The network draws together the disciplines of bioengineering, pharmaceutical science and drug discovery with an emphasis on collaborating with commerce and industry.
Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research (EDOR)
Our mission is to make a significant contribution to reducing the global burden of diabetes and obesity through research and dissemination of knowledge. We aim 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. We’re sharing our discoveries with individuals, communities, teachers, health professionals and policymakers.
Genetics Otago is the largest centre for advanced genetics research in Australasia, with researchers and facilities covering the full spectrum of genetics research. In relation to infectious diseases our research.
Our infectious diseases research:
- Applied genetics research
Our researchers are at the forefront of selecting and producing new traits for biologically-based industries. These industries are the backbone of the New Zealand economy.
- Developmental genetics research
We study genes and development in numerous vertebrates and invertebrates. We work to identify genes associated with human developmental disease, and on epigenetics, and human and plant biology.
- Microbial research
Our researchers study the biology of these organisms, including how viruses interact with other organisms and the immune system, and how they might be harnessed to deliver health benefits.
Genomics Aotearoa is an agile, leading-edge and collaborative platform, established to ensure that New Zealand is internationally participating and leading in the rapidly developing fields of genomics (the study of the genome, the complete set of genetic material present in a cell or organism) and bioinformatics (the development of methods and software tools for understanding the biological data derived from genomics).
GA is undertaking a suite of nationally significant research activities supporting New Zealand’s economic, environmental and social well-being.
Hauora Manawa / Heart Health: The Community Heart Study
This research aims to collect data on the current levels of established heart disease, levels of previously undiagnosed diabetes, cardiovascular disease and their risk factors in randomly-selected population samples from two diverse Maori communities, Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairoa in Hawkes Bay, and Mana Whenua ki Waitaha in Canterbury, as well as a non-Maori control group in Canterbury.
Health Environment and Infection Research Unit (HEIRU)
The Health, Environment and Infection Research Unit is a collaboration of researchers focused on the impact of infectious diseases and adverse environmental factors on population health. We use a range of research methods to investigate these health concerns; to identify effective interventions to reduce the burden of disease and inequalities; and to support the move to greater environmental sustainability. HEIRU aims to provide evidence-based recommendations and advice to support New Zealand and international agencies and practitioners in their disease prevention and control activities.
Healthier Lives – He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge
The Healthier Lives – He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge is a national research collaboration dedicated to achieving healthier lives for all New Zealanders.
It undertakes collaborative research aimed at equitably improving the prevention and treatment of four major non-communicable diseases:
- Cardiovascular disease
He Oranga Hauora kitenga
Aotearoa hei whenua he ōrite ngā putanga hua hauora mō te tangata, kia iti iho hoki ngā pīkauranga o ngā māuiui kāore e taea te tuku ki te tangata kē.
Healthier Lives vision
New Zealand with equitable health outcomes and a substantially reduced burden of non-communicable diseases.
Many factors impact on the health of New Zealanders, including systems that affect the whole population, cultural factors that relate to particular communities, and the genetic make-up and life experiences of individuals.
Healthier Lives’ research is therefore focussed within three themes:
- Healthy food and physical activity environments
- Culturally centred health interventions for Māori and Pacific peoples
- Precision medicine and personalised prevention
Hugh Adam Cancer Epidemiology Unit
The Hugh Adam Cancer Epidemiology Unit undertakes research into the causes of cancer and the impact of prevention programmes and cancer screening. We are investigating the causes of colorectal cancer, melanoma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in New Zealand. We have developed methods to provide estimates of the individual risk of melanoma for patients, and these methods can be extended to other cancers. We are collaborating in New Zealand and internationally to assess the best method of screening for colorectal cancer.
With colleagues at the University of Canterbury and in Finland, we are investigating the potential contribution of cytomegalovirus infection to the risk of breast cancer.
The Unit represents New Zealand in the International Cancer Screening Network of the National Cancer Institute (USA) and the International Lung Cancer Consortium of the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The Infection Group
We are a research collaboration between the University of Otago and the Canterbury District Health Board based in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The Infection Group is also an integral member of One Health Aotearoa, an alliance of New Zealand’s leading infectious diseases researchers who are committed to working together to tackle important infectious diseases locally and globally.The Infection Group are interested in all aspects of human infection, and our research aims to provide new insights into the prevention, management, surveillance and control of infections of global importance.
Infection Group research:
- Application of molecular diagnostics in routine diagnostic microbiology
- Breath research
- Invasive bacterial infections
- Legionnaires' disease
- Vitamin D
- Zoonotic disease transmission
Infectious Disease Research at Otago
This website highlights the research expertise and activities of scientists investigating human, animal, and environmental infectious diseases in Aotearoa / New Zealand. We also partner with a wide range of stakeholders, institutions and communities to collaborate on infectious disease issues of global significance.
Explore our infectious disease research:
- Alphabetical listing of our infectious disease research groups
- Animal, plant, and environment
- Disease prevention and control
- Understanding bacteria, viruses, and parasites
Māori Indigenous Health Innovation (MIHI)
The Māori Indigenous Health Innovation (MIHI) undertakes and supports research that explores Māori health inequities and building excellence in research evidence that contributes to Māori health advancement.
- Tangata Kōmuramura: Māori Experiences of Eating Disorders
- Te Uemairangi: Pathways to First Episode Psychosis and Outcomes in Māori Youth
- Medical education research
- Chronic kidney disease
- Heart Health: The Hauora Manawa community heart study
- Respiratory disease
- Mental health
- Community service
Mental Health Research at Otago
Mental health is a broad and complex issue facing New Zealanders – and a research strength of the University of Otago. This website brings together our investigators and teams contributing to New Zealand's research achievement in the field of mental health.
Explore our mental health research:
- Alphabetical listing of our mental health research groups
- Māori and Pacific mental health
- Mental disorders
- Mental health risk factors
- Population mental health and health services
One Health Aotearoa
One Health Aotearoa is an alliance of New Zealand’s leading infectious diseases researchers committed to working together to address important health hazards in New Zealand, and beyond.
A key lesson from recent infectious diseases outbreaks, including Ebola in West Africa, and efforts to control antimicrobial resistance, is that now, more than ever, we need to work across sectors, and reverse the trend towards increasing compartmentalization. Importantly, issues are addressed in a real-world context, with early involvement of key stakeholders and easier translation into policy.
Visit our website for more about our integrative approach to understanding, preventing, and controlling infectious disease.
Otago Genomics Facility
We provide expertise and sequencing resources to New Zealand researchers and industry.
- Project design and advice
- Illumina HiSeq sequencing
- Illumina MiSeq sequencing
- Nanostring nCounter Analysis System
The Otago Genomics Facility is an Illumina Propel-certified service provider for Illumina HiSeq 2500 and MiSeq sequencing platforms, and is also a Nanostring nCounter Analysis System core facility.
Otago Global Health Institute (OGHI)
We aim to improve global health and save lives, by identifying and evaluating solutions to important health problems in low-resource settings.
We work to address the world's most pressing health problems through research collaborations with low- and middle-income countries, and with disadvantaged groups in New Zealand.
We draw upon New Zealand's unique connections with Asia and the Pacific. Our extensive international partnerships and cross-disciplinary collaborations enable us to carry out innovative and rigorous research to advance global health.
Pacific Health Research at Otago
Talofa lava, kia orana, malo e lelei, fakaalofa lahi atu, bula vinaka, malo ni, halo ola keta, mauri, fakatalofa atu, and warm Pacific greetings!
We're celebrating our Pacific health research in the Division of Health Sciences.
Learn about what's going on in Pacific health research, how we can support researchers, and where to start if you're excited about research.
Research Infrastructure Centre
Our Research Infrastructure Centre offers specialist expertise, technology and facilities in protein research, genomics, imaging, and biomedical research.
We support optimum design and analysis of your research, and provide skill development opportunities.
Our academic leadership is of the highest calibre and we have extensively experienced and skilled staff.
Our services are available to researchers in institutions, industry, government and private companies.
School of Pharmacy
The School of Pharmacy has a very active research programme with disciplines ranging from science to humanities with each having a strong contextual link to health sciences.
- Clinical Pharmacy: concerned with patient care and the optimisation of medicine use in order to promote health and wellness, and prevent disease.
- Pharmaceutical Sciences: drug discovery, drug metabolism and drug action to extend the range of drugs available and to provide a scientific basis for the quality use of medicines and bioactive substances.
Sir John Walsh Research Institute for Oral Health
We advance research and increase knowledge for the improvement of oral health in New Zealand. Our research aims are to develop clinical research that translates discoveries into measurable health benefits, and to maintain fundamental research that underpins our teaching. From the molecular level through biological systems to the health of populations, our research is improving oral health in New Zealand.
Webster Centre for Infectious Diseases
Our scope extends from molecular to clinical research of infectious diseases affecting humans, animals, and plants.
We have over forty experts from across the university making fundamental discoveries and translating these discoveries into practical applications against infectious diseases.
Members of the Webster Centre use a variety of methods in their research, ranging from chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics, immunology and microbiology.
- Applied and molecular immunology
- Bacterial physiology and antimicrobial resistance
- Human virology: human papillomavirus
- Human virology: influenza virus
- Immunity to bacterial infection
- Oral microbiology and antifungal drug resistance
- Pseudomonas in kiwifruit
- Structural biology of infectious diseases
Featured research projects
An Otago research project seeks to improve treatment for antiobiotic resistant superbugs by better understanding what makes them tick.
2017 Distinguished Research Medal winner Professor Parry Guildford can count among his many achievements the discovery of the first-known gene for inherited gastric cancer and the development of a simple-to-use non-invasive test for bladder cancer.
Psychological Medicine and mental health researchers are taking an innovative approach to helping patients overcome severe and debilitating mood disorders.
Professor Mark Richards and Associate Professor Chris Pemberton of the Christchurch Heart Institute aim to revolutionise the accurate and timely diagnosis of heart conditions—in particular, unstable angina.
Professor Michael Baker believes we need to learn from the past to help meet the challenges presented by new pandemic diseases.
Collaboration and friendship
A medical school elective to a Kathmandu hospital became the launching pad for Professor David Murdoch’s significant contributions to the global fight against infectious disease.
One health: a holistic view
Professor David Murdoch talks about the One Health concept.