The EDGI project’s Principal Investigator is Professor Cynthia Bulik, Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders & Founding Director, University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders. The EDGI project in New Zealand is jointly led by Professor Martin Kennedy, Head of Department of Pathology and Biomedical Science and Dr Jennifer Jordan, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Psychological Medicine, both at the University of Otago, Christchurch.
Professor Cynthia Bulik
Professor Cynthia M. Bulik, Ph.D., FAED is Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders and the Founding Director of the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, and Professor at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.
A clinical psychologist, Prof Bulik has been conducting research and treating individuals with eating disorders since 1982.
Prof Bulik was a member of the Department of Psychology at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, between 1991-1996, where she was involved in rejuvenating the Princess Margaret Hospital Eating Disorders Program.
Prof Bulik’s research includes treatment, laboratory, epidemiological, twin and molecular genetic studies of eating disorders and body weight regulation. She has active research collaborations in more than 20 countries worldwide.
Prof Bulik is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Eating Disorders Coalition Research Award, the Academy for Eating Disorders Leadership Award for Research, the Price Family National Eating Disorders Association Research Award, the Academy for Eating Disorders Meehan/Hartley Award for Advocacy and the National Eating Disorders Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
She has published more than 500 papers and chapters on eating disorders, and is author of seven books.
“I have dedicated my career to discovering how both genes and environment cause eating disorders. EDGI is a unique opportunity to accelerate that work to inform personalised prevention and treatment efforts. Ultimately, we want to improve lives and eliminate death in individuals with eating disorders,” said Prof Bulik.
Prof Bulik’s work life is enriched by being happily married, the mother of three adult children, a gold medalist in ice dancing, and an avid ballroom dancer. Read more at www.cynthiabulik.com.
Professor Martin A. Kennedy
Professor Martin Kennedy is a genetics researcher in the Department of Pathology and Carney Centre for Pharmacogenetics at the University of Otago, Christchurch, and Co-lead Investigator for the New Zealand arm of the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI).
Prof Kennedy has extensive interest in using genetics to improve the understanding and treatment of many disorders.
He obtained a BSc (Hons) in Microbiology at the University of Canterbury in 1981, and a PhD in bacterial genetics at the University of Auckland in 1986.
Prof Kennedy is delighted to be involved in the EDGI study.
“Genome technology has advanced to the point where it is now possible to find genes underlying most disorders, and to use this knowledge to improve understanding of the condition, and ultimately, to better manage and treat it,” said Prof Kennedy.
Associate Professor Jennifer Jordan
Dr Jennifer Jordan is an Associate Professor at the University of Otago, Christchurch and Co-lead Investigator of the New Zealand arm of the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI).
Dr Jordan completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and Diploma in Clinical Psychology at the University of Canterbury. In 2004, she also completed her PhD on psychiatric comorbidity and subtyping in anorexia nervosa at the University of Otago.
Along with Professor Martin Kennedy, Dr Jordan is coordinating EDGI in New Zealand, aiming to recruit more than 3,500 participants from across the country.
Dr Jordan is passionate about EDGI as she believes gaining essential knowledge of the genetics of eating disorders has the potential to revolutionise future research into their causes, treatment and prevention.
According to Dr Jordan, gaining essential knowledge of the genetics of eating disorders has the potential to accelerate further essential research into their causes, treatment and prevention.
EDGI Research Staff
In addition to our lead investigators, the EDGI Aotearoa is supported by a team of skilled researchers. These researchers ensure that participants' data is taken care of and their samples are processed with care.
Hannah Kennedy, Research Fellow
I come from a diagnostic background, where my interest is in monogenic (single gene) disorders. I’m particularly passionate about uncovering genetic variants in families with rare, undiagnosed disorders. Since completing my PhD in 2017 I have developed an interest in the genetics of eating disorders, where hundreds, or potentially even thousands of genes, have a small but important role to play. My goal with our current research is that by better understanding the impact of genetics in these disorders, we open the door to advances in treatment and prevention in the future.
Michaela Pettie (Ngāti Pūkenga), Research Fellow
As a wāhine takatāpui researcher, I am passionate about seeing Māori and those in the rainbow community represented in international research like EDGI. I completed my PhD exploring the factors involved in autism spectrum disorders in 2020, and I have a diverse background working with those who have mental health challenges.As I look to the future, I hope the knowledge we create is relevant and important to communities and whānau.
Lana Cleland, Assistant Research Fellow
I began working in research while completing my MSc in Psychology, and joined the EDGI team in 2020. I am particularly interested in factors that contribute to eating disorder risk, in addition to those that impact treatment outcomes. These conditions are complex and we have so much to learn about them, but I am hopeful that findings from the EDGI research will ultimately inform treatment and prevention strategies.
Allison Miller, Lab & Research Technician
As the lab and research technician, I help with maintaining our data and processing our participant's spit kits. I work with our international collaborators to ensure the samples get to where they need to go. I am passionate about genetics and gene function.
It is exciting to be a part of an ambitious international genomics collaboration!
Leonie Hitchman, Assistant Research Fellow
I joined the EDGI team as an assistant research fellow at the start of 2022 after completing an honours degree in biomedical science. I help with the sending out and receiving of spit kits and vouchers, and aid in some of the data management and analysis.
My main research focus is on pharmacogenetics but I am enjoying learning about all of the complexities involved in eating disorders. I’m excited to be a part of such a large, important and impactful study, and hope that the findings will create a meaningful difference in the understanding and treatment of these conditions.