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Uni of Otago – AgResearch Centre Head Appointed

University of Otago – AgResearch Centre Head Appointed

A top New Zealand scientist has been chosen to lead a new joint AgResearch and University of Otago centre pursuing reproduction and genomics research.

Professor Neil Gemmell has been appointed to the AgResearch Chair in Reproduction and Genomics, a professorial post established as one of the University’s Leading Thinkers initiatives.

As holder of the Chair, Professor Gemmell will be the first Director of the new Centre for Reproduction and Genomics, which brings together the expertise of AgResearch and University scientists.

The Centre is expected to be an international leader in reproduction and genomics research. It will have a particular focus on livestock and human reproduction; livestock and human health and disease; and the control of mammalian reproduction.

Vice-Chancellor Professor David Skegg says that Professor Gemmell was selected from a strong field of applicants from around the world.

“Professor Gemmell has an impressive research background which blends ecology, conservation and evolutionary biology with recent developments from the human genome project.”

Through his use of new technologies he has made significant international contributions to his fields of study, says Professor Skegg.

AgResearch General Manager of Applied Biotechnologies Dr Jimmy Suttie says AgResearch and its predecessor organisations have a long history of working with Otago University. “We are delighted to have a research leader of Professor Gemmell’s calibre taking up the position and believe it will strengthen our already significant relationship.

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“Previous collaborations with the University in genomics and reproduction research, such as the identification of and development of markers for the booroola and inverdale prolificacy genes in sheep, have helped New Zealand sheep farmers become more productive.

“We look forward to many more such collaborations with the Centre for Reproduction and Genomics under Professor Gemmell’s leadership.”

Professor Gemmell’s past and current research projects include studying mating systems and mate choice, sperm-egg interactions, sperm function, sex determination, sex allocation, and inter-sexual genomic conflict.

Currently based in the University of Canterbury’s School of Biological Sciences, he will take up his new position in the first half of next year.

Professor Gemmell says he is looking forward to building on the existing research strengths of University of Otago and AgResearch scientists to create a centre that is internationally recognised for its research excellence.

“I am very excited to be leading a Centre that has great potential to build research capacity and add significant value to AgResearch, the University and New Zealand as a whole,” Professor Gemmell says.

“We will be well placed to take advantage of the recent flood of data from various international genome projects. By applying powerful comparative analytical techniques we can use this knowledge to great effect in discovering ways to enhance human and animal reproduction and health.”

The Centre will start from a strong position due to the previous longstanding and highly successful research collaborations between the University and AgResearch, he says.

Professor Skegg says the appointment now cements this relationship between two of the three largest research organisations in New Zealand.


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