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Advancing New Zealand’s genetic research

20th February 2014

Advancing New Zealand’s genetic research

Scientists from around New Zealand are gathering in Palmerston North today and tomorrow for a workshop hosted by AgResearch which aims to advance the contribution of genetic research to the New Zealand economy.

Forty four scientists from across the primary sector will be learning state of the art DNA sequencing technologies and specifically genotyping by sequencing (GBS).

The GBS technology was developed by AgResearch scientist Rob Elshire when he was at Cornell University in the United States.  Now in Palmerston North, he is being joined for the workshop by two of his former colleagues from Cornell, Drs Jeff Glaubitz and Katie Hyma.

“GBS provides a means to rapidly develop, in a cost-effective way, high density genetic marker systems for a variety of end uses,” says Mr Elshire. “We want to develop the infrastructure and skills necessary to take advantage of low cost DNA sequencing platforms in New Zealand, which will be mean we can then use the latest research tools to answer questions specific to our situations.”

“For example, it can be used to reduce the cost and increase efficiency in New Zealand’s sheep breeding programmes. And it is currently being used in the kiwifruit breeding programme at Plant & Food Research.”

He says the breadth of the application of the technology is illustrated by the range of organisations represented at the workshop.

“We have molecular biologists, geneticists and bioinformaticians from universities, other crown research institutes and private companies attending. It is part of a MBIE-funded [Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment] project which is taking a real NZ Inc. view - aiming to upskill scientists for the benefit of all the sectors they are working in.”

Mr Elshire says while the project is led by AgResearch, it is very much a collaborative effort. “We all stand to benefit if we can co-operate and build a set of tools so researchers around the country have a common platform in terms of data analysis.”

The aim of the workshop is to introduce the molecular biology, experimental design and bioinformatics of producing genome data via GBS, and is the first of a series of workshops.

“We want these to lead to practical applications across the primary sector, as well as publication of the results of those applications.

“After this workshop we will be working with the attendees to help them set up their initial experimental designs and subsequent data production will take about six months.  We will then have another workshop focused on data analysis.”

He says in 18 months, the participants will have the skills to be able to design and conduct their own experiments.


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