Associate Professor Peter Pfeffer BSc, PhD, Adjunct Scientist

  • Adjunct Scientist at the GMRI
  • Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington (VUW)

During his 30+ year career, Associate Professor Pfeffer moved from Cape Town (University of Cape Town) to Los Angeles (University of California Los Angeles), San Diego (Salk Institute), Vienna (Institute of Molecular Pathology) to Hamilton (AgResearch) and Wellington (VUW) in New Zealand. His main research interest is in embryogenesis – how to get from a single cell to a complex patterned multicellular organism. He has been using a range of vertebrate models to gain insights that are now standard textbook material, in particular;

  1. the structure of the midbrain-hindbrain organiser in fish and mice, with four high ranking papers
    cited 580 times,
  2. proving the crucial importance of extraembryonic tissues in patterning the mouse embryo (the
    key 2005 paper in the journal Development cited 164 times),
  3. his work on examining the first embryonic lineage decision published in Developmental Cell which
    led to a dedicated Nature ‘News and Views’ article and insight into why embryonic stem cells from
    different mammals differ and
  4. recent work explaining the causes for the different early development seen in humans, mice and
    cattle (2020 PNAS paper and the basis of a new Marsden grant).

Recently, in collaboration with the GMRI, Associate Professor Pfeffer has begun exploring how developmental mechanisms and gene regulatory pathways can be applied to understand the origin and progression of cancer.

Associate Professor Pfeffer teaches in numerous undergraduate and postgraduate courses (Animal Biology, Evolution, Physiology including Endocrinology and Reproduction) at VUW. He is the undergraduate and postgraduate Program Director for Biomedical Sciences as well as for Cell and Molecular Biology and Vice-Chair of the Animal Ethics Committee.