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By studying the genetic instructions of living organisms, ESR is helping to improve our health and the health of the world around us, for a better Aotearoa.

Genomics header


Our research in genomics, a fast moving and evolving field of science, covers many areas, like studying humans, the environment, and solving mysteries in forensic research using DNA clues.

Every living thing, from microbes to people, has its own DNA, containing a set of instructions called a genome. This genome tells an organism how to function, grow and stay healthy. By studying genomes, ESR is learning more about taking care of ourselves and our environment. 

We're also helping scientists in Aotearoa work together to get better at understanding genomes, so everyone can benefit from knowledge of genetic code.

Microbial Genomics

Microbial Genomics

Microbial genomics is a technology that gives us information about the genomic sequence of harmful pathogens. We can use this information to better manage outbreaks and threats from communicable diseases. Our microbial genomics work includes:

  • Viral detection in wastewater, including COVID-19 screening.

  • Clinical genomics led by Dr Rhys White. Collaboration with Dr Max Bloomfield, Awanui Labs, based at the Wellington Regional Hospital


ESR also manages the Genomics special interest group, and the New Zealand Microbiology Network.

Human Genomics 

Human Genomics 

The human genome is made up of 22 autosomes and a pair of sex chromosomes. A genome sequence establishes the order of DNA nucleotides or bases (A, C, G, and T) that make up an organism's DNA. This information is critical to understanding how our bodies develop and function. Our human genomics work includes: 

  • Collaborating with clinicians and surgeons at Wellington Hospital with the aim of bringing the benefits of lower cost, quicker turn-around sequencing to aid in clinical decision making.

  • DNA methylation, transcriptomics and small non-coding RNA and their role and utility as biomarkers in metabolic diseases - in particular obesity and type-two diabetes. This incorporates a Social Systems aspect to understand what makes a successful community-led intervention and is part of Healthier Lives He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge.

  • Epigenetics for equitable cardiovascular risk prediction.

  • Affordable, disruptive sequencing for community empowerment.

Genomics Aotearoa Consortia

Genomics Aotearoa consortia

ESR is a partner in Genomics Aotearoa, a science platform supporting advanced genomics research in New Zealand. It is an alliance between New Zealand Universities and Crown research institutes, which provides a collaborative platform to grow New Zealand’s capability, build international connections and develop tools and technologies to support genomics research. 

Specialist services

Specialist services

Our genomic experts use the latest technology to provide next generation sequencing across many of our focus areas, including forensic biology, foodborne pathogens and faecal source tracking.

ESR's genomics and bioinformatics expertise


ESR has genomics and bioinformatics expertise and capability which is applied to a range of ESR science:  

  • Forensic biology, including DNA and mRNA expertise 

  • Analysis and advice on the behaviour of pathogenic bacteria and virus in biowaste, soil and water 

  • Identification of virus and bacteria 

  • Water microbiology testing and research 

  • Faecal source tracking 

  • Drinking water investigations 

  • Recreational water investigations and human health impacts 

  • Food forensic investigations to identify source in foodborne disease 

  • Molecular typing of foodborne pathogens 

  • Testing for microbial contamination and viruses such as norovirus, adenovirus and rotavirus 

For more information -


ESR uses the latest technology to provide its next generation sequencing capacity and performs the national sequencing for all COVID-19 positive samples. We use a combination of platforms to obtain the most reliable genome data, these technologies are supplied by Illumina and Oxford Nanopore. 

The sequencing technology we use in conjunction with the laboratory automation allows for very rapid turnaround time and a good scalability, during the first wave there was a week in which over 200 genomes were sequenced. We can perform up to 12 urgent viral genomes, which means data is available the same day, this has been needed in some cases.

Innovative and disruptive technology

ESR is also utilising the MinION and coupling this with cutting-edge, portable, and affordable computing. We are exploring the capability of this innovative and disruptive technology across clinical and environmental use cases. This sees a portable and affordable (~$1500) compute infrastructure (based on the NVIDIA Jetson series of portable GPU [Graphics processing unit]) and powered by battery and solar (see image). This means that the minION sequencer can be deployed in ‘remote’ situations such as the: riverside/seaside; hospital bedside; primary health clinic; farmers field; meatworks, food production facility or potentially a crime scene. Therefore, the range of potential end-users is massive, and purely limited by ones imagination.

Testing & analysis

Testing & analysis services

Testing & analysis services

ESR combines state-of-the-art genome sequencing with advanced scientific expertise to identify environmental, food safety and quality issues and help solve complex problems.

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