The Government will invest up to $35 million over seven years in Genomics Aotearoa, a new collaborative science organisation supporting advanced genomics research, Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith announced today.
“Genomics is a fast-moving, data intensive research field that underpins a wide range of science that is increasingly important to New Zealand,” Mr Goldsmith says.
Led by the University of Otago, Genomics Aotearoa is an alliance between the Universities of Auckland and Massey, Crown Research Institutes AgReserach, ESR, Landcare Research, and Plant and Food, and 32 associate organisations including researchers and end users of genomics and bioinformatics.
“This new collaborative platform presents a major opportunity for New Zealand to be at the forefront of genomics. From health research to the primary sector and our environment, there are considerable social and economic gains on offer,” Mr Goldsmith says.
Genomics involves data-intensive computing to decode the DNA of plants, animals, and humans to understand how groups of genes interact with each other and the external environment. It is not genetic modification, which is the direct manipulation of an organism’s genome.
“This investment will establish Genomics Aotearoa as a collaborative platform of genomics research that grows New Zealand’s capability, builds international connections, and develops the tools and technologies that will support our genomics researchers in delivering excellent science,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“The new platform will accelerate genomics research in New Zealand, and thereby speed up our understanding of diseases like Kauri dieback, how to counter pest animal species, and develop new medical treatments for diseases such as cancer.”
Funding will come from the Government’s Strategic Science Investment Fund and follows a competitive two-stage application and assessment process managed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
“Genomics Aotearoa presented a strong proposal that was comprehensive in scope and ambition, and seeks to cement national collaboration between genomic researchers and end-users across all life sciences of relevance to New Zealand’s economic, environmental and social wellbeing,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“This platform represents a new, strategic approach to Government investment in genomics research that allows us to build on our existing capability while remaining nimble enough to respond to future technological opportunities.”
MBIE will now work closely with Genomics Aotearoa as the platform undergoes a six month establishment phase which will involve developing a research agenda and work programme.
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What is genomics?
An organism's complete set of DNA is called its genome. The study of the genome and its environment is known as genomics.
While genetics is the study of specific parts of DNA, genomics allows us to see a panoramic view of the DNA landscape of a genome, inside a single cell. Not only how that genome works, but how it interacts with its environment, from the cell surrounding it, to factors outside the organism it is part of.
By taking a wider look at the whole genome, we can begin to make discoveries about genetic variations, including susceptibility to diseases and differences in appearance. This can apply not only to humans, but also to animals and plants.
What is the difference between genomics and genetic modification or engineering?
Genomics is the understanding of an organisms’ complete set of DNA, and does not involve editing and manipulating the genome. Genomics does not involve genetic modification or engineering.
Genetic modification, or engineering, is the direct manipulation of an organism's genome using biotechnology. It is a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries.