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Building New Zealand’s bioinformatics capability

Building bioinformatics capability is absolutely crucial if New Zealand is to make full use of genomics research to improve health, conservation and economic wellbeing.

Mik Black

Mik Black at Queenstown Research Week 2018, co-lead researcher of the Genomics Aotearoa Bioinformatics capability project

Genomics Aotearoa has started work on a co-ordinated programme to ensure that New Zealand is internationally participating and leading in the rapidly developing fields of genomics and bioinformatics. It is taking the lead in developing a co-ordinated approach, something that is new to New Zealand.

GA Director Professor Peter Dearden told researchers at the Queenstown Research Week 2018 Bioinformatics Satellite that New Zealand researchers and front-line bioinformaticians will need to be involved in order to deliver a truly effective national bioinformatics infrastructure.

“The focus is on establishing and providing world-leading computational / bioinformatics infrastructure and training; the key to addressing the current gaps in genomics and bioinformatics capability is upskilling. GA’s national collaborative Bioinformatics team are engaging in training, education and outreach activities in addition to research to support this."

Bioinformatics sits within GA as an "underpinning infrastructure." The plan is to:

  • Develop infrastructure by doing research
  • Build a national infrastructure of people
  • Work with compute providers to build a NZ data repository and bioinformatics resources
  • Develop a comprehensive bioinformatics training programme

To date, GA has been appointing Bioinformatics postdoctoral research fellows to most GA projects, has been defining processes for training and community engagement, and is beginning to develop mentoring and advancement opportunities for GA bioinformatics researchers.

“We expect this focus will produce a collaborative research ecosystem significantly upskilled in bioinformatics as related to genomics over the next decade.”

Rudiger Brauning

Rudiger Brauning at Queenstown Research Week 2018, co-lead researcher of the Genomics Aotearoa Bioinformatics capability project

Health genomics priorities:

  • Data needed for diagnosis of Mendelian disorders
  • National coordination analysis and data storage
  • A recognition of our genomic uniqueness

Environment and primary production projects:

  • High quality genomes required to support conservation genomics and modern selective breeding
  • New methods and approaches developed to integrate long read and short read technologies and produce high quality genome assemblies.