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Rhys White

Rhys White is a scientist with ESR’s Health and Environment team.


Rhys earned his BSc (Hons) in Biology from Cardiff University and PhD in Microbial Genomics from The University of Queensland.


Dr Rhys White is a computational biologist focusing on microbial genomics, particularly in the field of pathogenic microorganisms. His research combines genomics and evolutionary biology to address fundamental questions about pathogen evolution. By utilising advanced genomic techniques and bioinformatics, including short-read sequencing technologies and Oxford Nanopore Technologies long-reads, Rhys’ work sheds light on the evolution, emergence, and dissemination of pathogens. During his time at ESR, he has been instrumental in analysing and reporting COVID-19 and New Zealand’s responses. The team worked many long hours to provide valuable intelligence to clinicians and collaborate with Pacific Island Nations. As part of this Rhys has disseminated the reports in a more accessible language to empower communities to interpret genomic data to combat the pandemic. Rhys has made substantial contributions to the field of microbial genomics, with a number of publications focusing on Chlamydia species genomics. Notably, he was a part of the team who were the first to present whole-genome sequences for two complete Chlamydia pecorum genomes collected from diseased koalas in Australia, which contributed to our understanding of these elusive pathogens. His innovative work on estimating the timeline of potential spillover events of Chlamydia psittaci between equine (horses) and avian (birds) hosts in Australia is a landmark contribution. Rhys is also part of the team that sequenced the first Chlamydia psittaci genomes from Aotearoa New Zealand. His expertise has garnered recognition nationally and internationally, and he has presented his work at renowned international conferences. His insights have influenced key decisions concerning bioinformatic approaches and experimental design in the field.