University of Otago

Centre for Gene Research

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Research Themes

 
 
 
 
 

 

Themes at Otago

In order to provide formal recognition and support for outstanding research activity in the University, the Research Committee initiated a process for soliciting and reviewing submissions on areas of research strengths from staff in 1996. The Committee established two levels of recognition: Major Themes and Emerging Research Themes and Areas of Research Excellence.

The University currently extends recognition to 12 Major Research Themes, and approximately 130 Areas of Research Strength at the University.

 

Functional Genomics, Gene Expression and Proteomics

The era of automated DNA sequencing and genome databases (genomics) has arrived and with it have come new methods for identifying particular genes and their protein products (proteomics). It is the expression of a set of genes in a particular cell type which defines the function of that cell. The pattern of gene expression can change, for example during development or as a result of mutation or disease, so that analysis of altered expression profiles provides fundamental information on basic biological processes. However, understanding how such changes come about requires knowledge of factors that control gene expression as well as the functions of the individual protein products. Assigning function to a protein depends strongly on knowing its precise composition and 3-dimensional structure. Functional proteomics leads in turn to a deeper understanding of physiological processes.

Such genome to proteome studies rely on some sophisticated technology now in place on this campus, that can be applied to the study of any tissue or organism. The equipment includes a gene microarray facility, laser capture microscope, LC-mass spectrometer and an X-ray diffraction facility, all of which have received support from the University. Underpinning the operations is the use of advanced methods in computational biology (bioinformatics). A number of proven investigators are embracing these new technologies with the common goal of understanding or manipulating gene expression. In addition to using common methodologies, members of this theme share a similar intellectual approach to the analysis of genes and proteins, irrespective of the great diversity of organisms under study.

Further information: Associate Professor John Cutfield
Website: http://biochem.otago.ac.nz/FGGEPtheme/home.html

 

Immunological Basis of Disease and Protective Immunity

Understanding of the immune response underpins our understanding of infectious and autoimmune diseases. Cures for these diseases, as well as cancer and asthma, require knowledge of the immune response and how it can be manipulated. Basic and applied research is essential for the health of both people and economically important livestock.

This is the only New Zealand university, and one of the few in Australasia, to teach a specific course in Immunology from first year level to PhD. Nine research groups are working on research projects that can be grouped under the theme, "The immunological basis of disease and protective immunity." The theme has recently expanded to include immunologists in Crown Research Institutes and industry. This grouping has been renamed Immunet, and its aims are to foster immunological research and the training of immunologists in New Zealand.

Research centres on the development of improved vaccines against infectious diseases and cancer. It also seeks to understand the immunology and infectious basis of autoimmune diseases, control of adhesion molecules in inflammatory diseases, and the role of the immune system in asthma.

The theme comprises 45 postdoctoral researchers in the University's medical and health science schools and the Malaghan Institute. Theme researchers have achieved international eminence.The theme attracts grant funding of $3 million per annum.

Further information: Dr Glenn Buchan
Website: http://www.otago.ac.nz/immunet/

 

Oral Microbiology and Dental Health

Oral microbes cause discomfort, distress, or disease in a large proportion of the population. Tooth decay (dental caries), for example, which is caused by the bacteria present in dental plaque, is one of the most common human diseases, is painful and is costly to treat. Other microorganisms, such as periodontal pathogens and the yeast Candida albicans, are also present in the mouth and can give rise to oral diseases. The research carried out under this theme aims to study the microorganisms responsible for a range of oral diseases, to understand how the diseases are caused, and to devise strategies for prevention.

Membership of the theme is drawn from five Health Sciences Division departments on the Dunedin and Wellington campuses. Theme members and collaborators have been awarded funding in excess of $3 million over the last two years by a range of national and international funding bodies.

Current objectives include the extension of collaborative research activities of theme members, the development of interaction with the dental profession and the organisation of special symposia on Oral Microbiology to promote and develop the theme and to increase public awareness of the research.

Further information: Dr Richard Cannon
Website: http://www.otago.ac.nz/oralmicro

 

Virology

The Virology research team at the University comprises several interconnected groups located in the Divisions of Sciences and Health Sciences, and spread across the Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington campuses. Together they have expertise in all areas of virology.

Current research activities of theme groups encompass multiple projects in the areas of: viruses and cancer; viruses and immunity; human and animal health virology; invertebrate virology; viral infections and diagnosis; vector-borne diseases; plant virology; and human respiratory disease and hepatitis.

The group has an exceptionally strong track record of publications, and collaborates internationally with research institutes in Germany, the UK, the US, Australia, Finland and Israel.

Theme participants have won in excess of $6 million research funding from national and international sources in the last five years.

Further information: Dr Vernon Ward
Website: http://www.otago.ac.nz/virology

 

Centre for Gene Research
Centre for Gene Research
Centre for Gene Research

 

A Grassroots Organisation of Active Research Scientists
Last Updated: January 2003


Centre for Gene Research
Centre for Gene Research
Centre for Gene Research
Centre for Gene Research