Prof Nigel French staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (06) 356 9099  ext. 85037

Prof Nigel French Bachelor of Veterinary Science (University of Bristol), Master of Science in Epidemiology (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Diploma of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Diploma of European College of Veterinary Public Health, MNZIFST, Membership of Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, PhD (University of Bristol), Fellow of Royal Society of New Zealand

Director, NZ Food Safety Science & Research Centre

Research, Academic and Enterprise

Prof-Food Safety & Vet Public Health

Institute of Vet, Animal and Biomedical Sciences

Nigel is Director of the New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre, Director of the Infectious Disease Research Centre, and Executive Director of the Molecular Epidemiology and Public Health laboratory in the Hopkirk Research Institute. He was recently elected as  Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Nigel is also a member of the Professoriate of the New Zealand Institute for Advanced Studies. He is Visiting Professor at the Universities of Liverpool and Surrey, UK, an Honorary Professor at the University of Otago, a Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Public Health and a Fellow of Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Nigel is a graduate of the University of Bristol UK (BVSc and MRCVS in 1987 and PhD in 1993), University of London UK (MSc in Epidemiology, 1993). He was lecturer in Epidemiology (University of Liverpool), lecturer in Farm Animal Studies (University of Bristol) and Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellow in Clinical Epidemiology (University of Bristol). He was awarded a Senior Research Fellowship in 1999 and a Personal Chair in Veterinary Epidemiology, University of Liverpool, in 2002. Prior to joining Massey, he was Head of the Defra Epidemiology Fellowship Unit.

His main research interests are: Molecular epidemiology, pathogen evolution, ecosystem health, food and environmental pathogens, particularly Campylobacter, E. coli, Cryptosporidium and Salmonella.
Roles and Responsibilities
Professor of Food Safety and Veterinary Public Health, Massey University.
Director of the New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre
Executive Director, Molecular Epidemiology and Public Health Laboratory (mEpiLab), Massey University.
Director, Infectious Disease Research Centre, Massey University.

Honorary Appointments:
Visiting Professor and Honorary Research Fellow, School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool,UK.
Visiting Professor, University of Surrey, UK
Honorary Professor, University of Otago, NZ

Nigel is Professor of Food Safety and Veterinary Public Health at Massey University, New Zealand.  He is Director of the New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre, Director of the Infectious Disease Research Centre and Executive Director of the Molecular Epidemiology and Public Health laboratory, specializing in molecular epidemiology and the control of infectious diseases.  Nigel has worked on the epidemiology and control of infectious diseases of national and global importance. His most notable contribution was providing crucial scientific evidence on the source of food-borne infections which underpinned the development of improved strategies for control of these pathogens.

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Contact details

  • Ph: +64 6 356 9099
    Location: 2.32, Hopkirk Research Institute
    Campus: Turitea


  • BVSc - Bristol University UK (1987)
  • MSc - London University UK (1993)
  • DLSHTM - London University UK (1998)
  • DipECVPH (2003)
  • Member of the New Zealand Institute for Food Science and Technology (2017)
  • MRCVS (1987)
  • PhD - Bristol University UK (1993)
  • FRSNZ - RSNZ (2014)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

Molecular epidemiology, genomic epidemiology, pathogen genomics, food safety, risk assessment and the control of infectious diseases


21st Century Citizenship, Health and Well-being, Future Food Systems

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Agricultural And Veterinary Sciences (070000):
Biological Sciences (060000): Evolutionary Biology (060300):
Medical And Health Sciences (110000): Medical Microbiology (110800):
Phylogeny and Comparative Analysis (060309):
Public Health and Health Services (111700):
Veterinary Epidemiology (070704): Veterinary Microbiology (excl. Virology) (070707): Veterinary Parasitology (070708): Veterinary Sciences (070700)


Veterinary Epidemiology, Molecular Epidemiology, Genomic Epidemiology, Pathogen Evolution, Public Health, Food Safety, Biosecurity, Pathogen Genomics,

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Not Specified 1 0
Project Leader 12 45
Team Member 0 4

Current Projects

Project Title: NZ-China Food Protection Network - A Collaborative Centre for Food Safety and Security

Date Range: 2016 - 2021

Funding Body: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Project Team:

Project Title: NSC - Project 2.1 - Biosecurity network interventions (NZ Biological Heritage National Science Challenge)

Date Range: 2015 - 2019

Funding Body: Lincoln University

Project Team:

Project Title: New Zealand Food Safety Science & Research Centre

Date Range: 2015 - 2020

Funding Body: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Project Team:

Project Title: Is the family pet a risk factor of multidrug resistant bacterial infections?

Date Range: 2014 - 2019

Funding Body: Health Research Council of New Zealand

Project Team:

Completed Projects

Project Title: Contamination in Slaughter Cattle

To determine: a. The genotype-specific prevalence and concentration of E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 STEC in New Zealand dairy and beef slaughter populations, including very young calves; and b. The attribution of E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 STEC strains in cattle populations to foodborne disease; and c. The risk factors associated with high prevalence (and concentrations) of E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 STEC strains in/on animals at the time of slaughter, including the impact of transportation to the slaughter premises; and d. The characteristics of a cost-effective industry-wide sampling plan that will provide high assurance of minimal contamination of fresh meat; and e. How New Zealand┬┐s adult cattle E. coli O157:H7 profile compare with data NZFSA submitted to FSIS in December 2007/January 2008.
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Date Range: 2009 - 2013

Funding Body: Use MAF -- New Zealand Food Safety Authority

Project Team:

Project Title: Cows, starlings and Campylobacter in New Zealand: unifying phylogeny, genealogy and epidemiology to gain insight into pathogen evolution

The introduction of European wildlife has had a devastating effect on New Zealand┬┐s flora and fauna. Yet these historical events, coupled with the importation of domestic livestock, have provided us with a unique opportunity to study the evolution of a globally important human pathogen: Campylobacter. Using analytical tools recently developed by our research team, together with detailed sequencing studies, we aim to exploit the newly-discovered host specificity of C. jejuni and C. coli strains and the well-characterised historical separation of both NZ and European host and bacterial populations, to improve our understanding of Campylobacter species evolution. We have unprecedented access to isolates, and their multilocus gene sequences, cultured from humans, domestic animals and wildlife in NZ and Europe - and will gather additional isolates and more detailed sequence data from NZ. We will discover how often, and how much, genetic material is exchanged between natural populations; how important recombination is relative to mutation for the emergence of new strains; and in which host species these events are most likely to occur. Ultimately we can learn how and why C. jejuni emerged to become such a prominent human pathogen; anticipate further evolution and restrict the emergence and spread of new strains.
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Date Range: 2009 - 2012

Funding Body: Marsden Fund - Full

Project Team:

Project Title: Epidemiological Mathematical Modelling

To explore possible differences between ethnic, socioeconomic & urban/rural groups of women with breast cancer in their access to primary care.
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Date Range: 2006 - 2009

Funding Body: Veterinary Laboratories Agency

Project Team:

Supervision and Teaching

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Supervisor 1 12
CoSupervisor 7 9


 MSc Veterinary Microbiology Course -  Molecular Epidemiology of infectious diseases at Surrey University inivted to teach this course annually

Veterinary Public Health Course for students - Massey University

Current Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

CoSupervisor of:

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • 2017 - Kyle Stephen Richardson - PhD
    An Australian Abroad: The secret life of the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula)
  • 2016 - Barbara Mary Binney - PhD
    The Microbial Ecology of Camplyobacter jejuni in New Zealand Within a Spatial-Temporal Framework
  • 2015 - Anja Friedrich - PhD
    Campylobacter jejuni microevolution and phenotype: genotype relationships
  • 2015 - Bernard Joakim Phiri - PhD
    Estimating the public health risk associated with drinking water in New Zealand
  • 2014 - Patricia Jaros - PhD
    Epidemiological investigations of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) 0157 and STEC 026 in New Zealand slaughter cattle, and the source attribution of human illness
  • 2013 - Barbara Siobhan Govan - PhD
    Impact of Quorum Sensing on Cell Aggregation in enteropathogenic and enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli
  • 2013 - Shoukai Yu - PhD
    The Evolution of Campylobacter
  • 2013 - Hamid Irshad - PhD
    Molecular epidemiology of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) 0157 and non-0157 STEC in calves in the North Island of New Zealand
  • 2012 - Vathsala Mohan - PhD
    Molecular Epidemiology of Campylocateriosis and Evolution of Campylocater jejuni ST-474 in New Zealand
  • 2009 - Petra Mullner - PhD
    Estimating the contribution of different sources to the burden of human campylobacteriosis and salmonellosis
  • 2009 - Jacqueline Benschop - PhD
    Epidemiological investigations of surveillance strategies for zoonotic salmonella
  • 2007 - Simone Megan Titus - PhD
    A novel model developed for Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment in the pork food chain

CoSupervisor of:

  • 2017 - Antoine Nohra - PhD
    Molecular epidemiological studies of Campylobacter isolated from different sources in New Zealand between 2005 and 2015
  • 2016 - Yeserin Yildirim - PhD
    Genetics Structure of Pleurobranchaea maculata in New Zealand
  • 2016 - Rima Devi Shrestha - PhD
    Molecular Epidemiology of Waterborne Zoonoses in North Island of New Zealand
  • 2015 - Zoe Lorraine Grange - PhD
    Ecology, epidemiology and evolution of enteric microbes in fragmented populations of the endangered takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri)
  • 2014 - Julanda Al Mawly - PhD
    Epidemiological studies of enteropathogens of newborn calves in New Zealand dairy farms
  • 2013 - Eric James Neumann - PhD
    Biosecurity and exotic disease surveillance in the New Zealand pig industry
  • 2011 - Charlotte Frances Bolwell - PhD
    Epidemiology of early exercise in thoroghbred racehorses
  • 2009 - Caryl Yolanda Lockhart - PhD
    Surveillance for diseases of poultry with specific reference to Avian influenza

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