Dr Justin O'Sullivan

BSc (Hons), PhD

Profile Image
Senior Research Fellow


After completing my PhD at The University of Otago with Richard Cannon in 1998, I held postdoctoral positions in the laboratories of Professor Mick Tuite (University of Kent) and Professor Nick Proudfoot (University of Oxford).

I returned to New Zealand in 2004 to take up a faculty position at Massey University, and recently moved to the Liggins Institute.

I was awarded the Life Technologies Award for excellence in molecular biology research in 2010, and a Massey University Early Career Research Medal. My research focuses on the functional consequences of the three-dimensional structure of the nucleus. My group published the first method to determine the global genome interaction network, and described a novel DNA interaction pathway between mitochondria and the nucleus. My group has also utilised modelling approaches to construct three-dimensional maps of the nucleus from interaction data.

Teaching, affiliations and collaborations

Honorary Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biology, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand.

Dr O’Sullivan has collaborations with researchers in:

  • Massey University
  • The University of Otago
  • The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
  • German Cancer Research Institute (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany
  • Cold Spring Harbor L, New York, USA
  • Imperial College, London, UK

Dr O’Sullivan has recently collaborated with researchers in:

  • The National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, USA
  • University of Edinburgh, UK
  • University of Debrecen Hungary
  • University of Oslo, Norway

Research | Current

  • Understanding how genomes are organized in 3-dimensions and the role that epigenetics has in shaping and maintaining this organization. Studies are designed to advance our understanding of the complex inter-relationships between what a cell’s DNA codes for (the genotype), the epigenetic code, and the result of the genotype’s conditional expression (the phenotype).
  • Investigating these problems using a holistic systems biology approach to understand genome structure formation, function, and inheritance. This approach integrates methods and technologies from molecular biology, bioinformatics, and computational biology.
  • Invesigating how the microbiome changes in preterm infants and its effects on later life disease.
  • Investigating how SNPs contribute to the development of disease through alterations to the 3D organization of gene regulation.
  • Actively involved in communicating science to the community, I coordinate a Metagenomic study which involves High School students and teachers in the practical and theoretical aspects of a real-life scientific investigation of soil microbiology. (http://www.katoa.ac.nz)


Postgraduate supervision

I have supervised/supervise the following students



Chris Rodley (graduated 2012)

Ralph Grand (graduated 2014)

Inswasti Cahyani

Malina Doynova

Tatyana Pichugina

Dharani Sontam

William Schierding (Co-supervise)


Rachel Bowden (graduated 2014)

Steven Chou (graduated 2011)


Ralph Grand (1st class, graduated 2009)

Chris Rodley (1st class, graduated 2007)

Veronica Benton-Guy (1st class, graduated 2013)



2012-current                  Associate Investigator in Gravida: National Centre for Growth and Development.

03/2012-current            Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Long Bay Primary School, New Zealand.

06/2010-current            Member of Board of Trustees, Long Bay Primary School, New Zealand.

01/09/10                         2010 Life Technologies Life Science Award: for emerging excellence in Molecular biology in New Zealand.

03/06/10-current           Associate Investigator in Maurice Wilkins Centre for molecular biodiscovery.

2005                               Massey University Early Career Research Medal.


Areas of expertise

My research centres on the use of high throughput techniques in the meta-analyses of genomes. We specialise in the integration of novel experimental and computational techniques to answer biologically relevant questions, including what is the physical structure of a genome within a cell or what is the epigenetic structure of a genome within an environment? Our group also has considerable experience with genetic and biochemical manipulation, mostly in yeast, and increasingly in other organisms.

Committees/Professional groups/Services

28/8/14-current Appointed to Metabolic Health Expert panel for High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge.

01/10/13-28/8/14          Convenor QMB 2014 main meeting.

01/01/2011-01/10/2013 Panellist for the Cellular, Molecular and Physiological Biology panel, Marsden Fund, Royal Society of New Zealand.

01/09/12- 01/10/13       Organizer Epigenetics and chromatin symposium, QMB 2013.

01/09/10-09/11              Organizer Epigenetics and chromatin symposium, QMB 2011.

01/01/09-current Member of QMB organizing committee.

30/10/10-30/10/12        North Island representative; The Australian and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology.

01/01/09-04/12/10        Member of organizing committee for NZMS/NZSBMB joint conference December 2010.

01/01/05-2012             Coordinator of the NZMS eukaryotic special interest group.

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Jacobson, E., Vickers, M. H., Perry, J. K., & O'Sullivan JM (2017). Genome organization: connecting the developmental origins of disease and genetic variation. Journal of developmental origins of health and disease, 1-6. 10.1017/s2040174417000678
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mark Vickers, Jo Perry
  • Sontam, D. M., Vickers, M. H., Firth, E. C., & O'Sullivan JM (2017). A Memory of Early Life Physical Activity Is Retained in Bone Marrow of Male Rats Fed a High-Fat Diet. Frontiers in Physiology, 8.10.3389/fphys.2017.00476
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Elwyn Firth, Mark Vickers, Dharani Sontam
  • Doynova, M. D., Markworth, J. F., Cameron-Smith, D., Vickers, M. H., & O'Sullivan JM (2017). Linkages between changes in the 3D organization of the genome and transcription during myotube differentiation in vitro. Skeletal Muscle, 7 (1)10.1186/s13395-017-0122-1
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mark Vickers, David Cameron-Smith
  • Godfrey, K. M., Cutfield, W., Chan, S.-Y., Baker, P. N., & Chong, Y.-S. (2017). Nutritional Intervention Preconception and During Pregnancy to Maintain Healthy Glucose Metabolism and Offspring Health ("NiPPeR"): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Trials, 18 (1)10.1186/s13063-017-1875-x
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/35004
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Wayne Cutfield, Lesley McCowan, Philip Baker, Allan Sheppard, Clare Wall, Timothy Kenealy
  • Jacobson, E., Perry, J. K., Long, D. S., Vickers, M. H., & O'Sullivan JM (2016). A potential role for genome structure in the translation of mechanical force during immune cell development. Nucleus (Austin, Tex.), 7 (5), 462-475. 10.1080/19491034.2016.1238998
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mark Vickers, Jo Perry
  • Doynova, M. D., Berretta, A., Jones, M. B., Jasoni, C. L., Vickers, M. H., & O'Sullivan JM (2016). Interactions between mitochondrial and nuclear DNA in mammalian cells are non-random. Mitochondrion, 30, 187-196. 10.1016/j.mito.2016.08.003
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mark Vickers
  • Schierding, W., Antony, J., Cutfield, W. S., Horsfield, J. A., & O'Sullivan JM (2016). Intergenic GWAS SNPs are key components of the spatial and regulatory network for human growth. Human molecular genetics, 25 (15), 3372-3382. 10.1093/hmg/ddw165
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Wayne Cutfield, William Schierding
  • Pichugina, T., Sugawara, T., Kaykov, A., Schierding, W., Masuda, K., Uewaki, J., ... Nurse, P. (2016). A diffusion model for the coordination of DNA replication in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Scientific Reports, 6, 1-11. 10.1038/srep18757
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/29775
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: William Schierding

Contact details

Alternative contact

Primary location

M&HS BUILDING 503 - Bldg 503
Level 2, Room 263A
New Zealand

Social links