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Author Archives: debre80p

Health Research Council funding success at Otago

Two GO members Associate Professor Christopher Brown (Department of Biochemistry) and Associate Professor Aniruddha Chatterjee (Department of Pathology) have been named as the only Otago University academics to receive Health Research Council Explorer Grants.

Associate Professor Christopher Brown
Department of Biochemistry
Explorer Grant

There is an urgent need for replacements for antibiotics. During evolution bacterial viruses have evolved to manipulate or destroy specific human pathogens. There are huge and rapidly increasing numbers of sequences from bacterial viruses in the public domain, but this wealth of data has not been able to be fully utilised. We believe that it has now become possible to mine this data for new antibiotics. In preliminary studies we have identified thousands of potential anti-bacterials – the difficulty is choosing the best ones. To select these we propose to develop novel computer methods to predict their hosts, biophysical, functional, and expression properties. If successful, this research will provide proof of principle by discovering and testing pre-clinically new anti-bacterials. It will open up a novel and flexible computational approach to transform antibiotic discovery.

Associate Professor Aniruddha Chatterjee
Department of Pathology
Explorer Grant

Although about 90% of cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the underlying molecular events that drive it are poorly understood. This limited understanding hinders the development of effective cancer treatments. Initially thought to be driven by genetic mutations, our work indicates that epigenetic changes such as DNA methylation may be responsible for driving metastasis. Until recently it has not been possible to directly demonstrate that specific methylation changes alter metastatic potential. However, the development of precision editing tools now provides an opportunity to specifically edit epigenetic states target genes and to exclusively investigate the effect of these changes on cancer cell function. Our proposed research will further develop CRISPR/Cas technology to enable high-throughput interrogation of epigenetic drivers of metastasis. We aim to demonstrate that epigenetic mechanisms drive metastasis. This will open new avenues for understanding metastasis biology, lead to better outcome prediction, and identify new therapeutic targets to treat metastatic cancers.

The full Otago University recipient list for HRC grants can be read here.


Where nothing is as it seems

Genetics Otago member Hamish Spencer is Sesquicentennial Distinguished Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Otago who writes a column for the ODT ‘Biological Taonga’. Read his latest article here.

Otago researchers reveal impact of ancient earthquake

Professor Jon Waters (Genetics Otago member, Department of Zoology) shares research authored by fellow GO members Dr Felix Vaux (Department of Zoology) and Associate Professor Ceridwen Fraser (Department of Marine Science) and other colleagues describing how kelp genomics can aid in revealing the impacts of ancient earthquakes.

Read more in the Otago Media Release.


Publication information

Integrating kelp genomic analyses and geological data to reveal ancient earthquake impacts

Felix Vaux, Ceridwen I. Fraser, Dave Craw, Stephen Read and Jonathan M. Waters

Journal of the Royal Society Interface

Significant step in fight against drug resistance in TB

Genetics Otago researcher Dr Matthew McNeill (Department of Microbiology and Immunology) and his group has featured in the media recently for their work on treating antibiotic-resistant strains of tuberculosis (TB).

You can read more about the work on the Otago Bulletin Board.

Otago-led study makes significant breast cancer findings

A global study led by GO co-director Associate Professor Logan Walker has discovered a gene, that when modified, could reduce the risk of breast cancer.

To find out more check out the University of Otago media release.

Otago Innovation Proof of Concept Grant 2021 winners receive Stanford entrepreneurship certificate

A group of GO members who were the Otago Innovation’s Proof of Concept Grant winners in 2021, Dr Erin Macaulay, Dr Chi Lynch-Sutherland and Professor Mike Eccles, of the Department of Pathology, along with Dr Sarah Diermeier, of the Department of Biochemistry and founding Chief Scientific Officer of Amaroq Therapeutics, have gained entrepreneurship qualifications from Stanford Online.

Read more on the Otago Bulletin Board.

Academic Promotions

Congratulations to our members who have had academic promotions announced!

Stephanie Hughes (Department of Biochemistry)
David Orlovich (Department of Botany)
James Ussher (Microbiology and Immunology)

Associate Professor:
Louise Bicknell (Department of Biochemistry)
Lynette Brownfield (Department of Biochemistry)
Heather Cunliffe (Department of Pathology)
Matthew Parry (Department of Mathematics and Statistics)

You can read more about the promotions on the Otago Bulletin.

$3.8 million to Otago researchers in Career Development Awards

Genetics Otago member Dr Simon Jackson (Department of Microbiology and Immunology) is one of three Otago recipients of the prestigious Sir Charles Hercus Fellowships, for his research “A genomics-led approach to bacteriophage therapies for infectious disease”.

Read more on the University of Otago Bulletin Board.

Research award for GO Member

Genetics Otago researcher Dr Emma Wade (Department of Women’s and Children’s Health) has been awarded an Innovations Jump Start Award by Medicines New Zealand.

Dr Wade has discovered a protein that may help wound healing following surgery as an incidental finding while looking for the cause of a rare disease in a patient.

You can read more about the finding in this Otago Daily Times article: Research award for local scientist.

More good news for leading genetics researcher

Genetics Otago member Professor Stephen Robertson (Department of Women’s and Children’s Health) has been awarded the Hercus Medal from the Royal Society Te Apārangi, for research on genetic conditions impacting children and seeking to establish equitable delivery of genomic medicine for Māori.

Read more on the Otago Bulletin Board.