Internationally renowned genetics expert Professor Michael Bunce is joining the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) as Principal Scientist Genomics Lead to help spearhead the Crown Entity’s increased focus on Genetics and Genomics.
Professor Bunce joins ESR from the Environmental Protection Authority where he held the role of Chief Scientist. Prior to that he was Professor of Environmental Genomics at Curtin University, Western Australia, and headed the University’s Trace and Environmental DNA laboratory.
Professor Bunce has built a distinguished career and reputation applying his genetics expertise to a range of taxonomic, ecological, medical, and environmental issues. He also notably sequenced ancient DNA from the fossil bones of moa and giant eagles and has developed novel environmental DNA (eDNA) methods to survey biodiversity that animals leave behind as they move through the environment.
ESR Chief Executive, Peter Lennox said the organisation was delighted to secure one of New Zealand’s top scientists to develop a future focused strategic model within the organisation to realise the full potential of Genomics.
“ESR is looking to build on our successful COVID-19 response and adopt a genomics-first approach where genomics will be the test of choice for all samples of infectious diseases. We are excited to have Mike join our team of incredible scientists and researchers to build on the magnificent work they do.”
The new role reports to ESR’s Chief Scientist and will work closely across the Forensic and Health & Environment Science Groups to provide strategic science leadership and enable the development of future focused genomics.
Dr Brett Cowan, ESR Chief Scientist said genomic technology will be deployed “closer to the people” within communities, leading to an increased understanding of the environment, as well as in clinics with direct impacts in the clinical setting.
“Genomics at ESR will still be important in a research setting but we see it quickly evolving and integrating into more applied settings, like being used to detect different human diseases like cancer, infectious diseases, rare disorders and antimicrobial resistance. Mike will play an important part in enabling our genomic ambition,” said Dr Cowan.
Dr Ian Town, Chief Science Advisor at the Ministry of Health, who has worked with Mike for the past 2 years said“Prof Bunce’s expertise in genetics and genomics has been hugely helpful in helping us understand this fast-moving field. His work has been especially helpful throughout the pandemic response as we look to understand links within new clusters. I look forward to working with Mike in his new role, and the wider ESR team, as they collectively build much-needed capability in this area.”