Improving wellbeing by understanding our genes

  • Hon Dr Megan Woods
Research, Science and Innovation

The government is laying the groundwork to understanding our genes – work that can help us tackle some of our biggest health challenges, like heart disease and diabetes, says Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods.

$4.7 million has been invested in the Genomics Aotearoa Rakeiora programme. The programme will first work with Māori to build a national genomics research infrastructure to manage and govern data, its ownership and guardianship, including New Zealand-specific genomic databases.

“We recognise that for many Maori DNA and genomic data is tapu which is why we’re taking this first step, working in partnership with Maori to establish an agreed framework for this work”, said Megan Woods.

Two exemplar populations will provide information, giving a representation of health and genomic data at two ends of the spectrum. These are people living in rural Tairāwhiti (East Coast) and urban Auckland. There will be the opportunity to work with Māori, Pasifika and Pākehā in specialised consultative health care.

“Research into human genomics is seeing rapid global growth, but to maximise its benefits for addressing health issues in New Zealand, we need to be mindful of our unique cultural and genetic composition and not simply to adopt methods and data developed overseas.

“This investment is the first step to enabling researchers to translate genomic knowledge into health practices that advance the wellbeing of all New Zealanders, and in particular address the country’s health inequities by developing genomic tools that put the needs and priorities of Māori at its centre”, said Megan Woods.