Data science + genomics

3 August, 2017

 - credit:

Genomics, the study of genomes (the complete set of genetic material within an organism), is a relatively new field of science that is generating vast quantities of data.

Rob Elshire’s Palmerston North-based business the Elshire Group offers a genotyping-by-sequencing service using a technology invented by Rob. The company’s clients are mostly based overseas.

“My wife and I run the business based in our lab at Massey University. We prepare the DNA samples, get them analysed in Australia then either send the raw data to the client or process it here first. It’s most commonly plant and animal samples to support breeding work, conservation biology, or ecology.”

Rob was introduced to Finlay and Edward a couple of years ago by a mutual friend.

“One of the biggest things we have in common is that we come from the same philosophical background – it has to do with how we share information and the tools we use. I’m an open science and free software kind of person too.”

Sharing knowledge, cloud computing, working collaboratively, responsiveness to critique and reproducible research are all areas of strong common values.

“We’ve been looking for opportunities to work together and this year we’re finding ways to do that.”

Dragonfly was part of a proposal led by Rob to create an advanced genomics research platform in New Zealand. Although not funded Rob sees the proposal as a success.

“We wanted to put together a modern, nimble, inclusive, and New Zealand specific plan to show the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment that different approaches are credible, even if they are not within their comfort zone. Ours was a group from beyond the typical New Zealand genomics science players and included data scientists, business development experts and a cloud computing business.”

“This is a small country, so the proposal was about how we can work together rather than letting barriers get in the way. We’re going to keep looking for those opportunities.”

The Genomics for Aotearoa New Zealand proposal is available on