Dr. Bjorn Oback

Senior Scientist

E: bjorn.oback@agresearch.co.nz


Björn graduated in Biology from the University of Giessen, Germany, in 1995. He then moved to the University of Heidelberg to work as a graduate student in Prof Wieland Huttner’s lab at the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Centre and later Max-Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany. In 2000, he earned his PhD in Developmental Neurobiology.

Research interests & activities

Prompted by the cloning of Dolly the sheep, he became interested in the emerging field of epigenetic reprogramming and its practical applications. He joined the group of David Wells at AgResearch, New Zealand, and developed a zona-free cloning procedure that doubles the throughput in cloned embryo and offspring production. The relevance of this work for applied biotechnology was recognized with the inaugural ‘Kudos’ Science Excellence Award.

Using cattle and red deer as model systems, his group then showed that somatic stem cells did not reprogram better than their differentiated progeny, demonstrating that somatic donor cell type is not critical for nuclear transfer (NT) cloning success in practice.

At the same time, his group was the first to clone cattle by NT into zygotes, thus breaking the 20-year old dogma that cloning success depends on the use of unfertilized oocytes. In vivo survival was doubled, indicating that zygotes contain factors that improve reprogramming of cells into animals. This work was awarded the 8th Royan International Research Prize.

Since then, his focus has progressed to deriving pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) as reproductive tools for livestock breeding and genome engineering. Using modified conditions of dual kinase inhibition (‘2i’), his group derived embryonic and induced PSC-like cells in cattle. Recently, he has also begun to explore the use of large animal models for organ replacement and regenerative medicine.


  • 2007 Kudos’ Science Excellence Award
  • 2007 8th Royan International Research Prize

Selected publications

Kallingappa PK, Turner PM, Eichenlaub MP, Green AL, Oback FC, Chibnall AM, Wells DN and Oback B. Quiescence Loosens Epigenetic Constraints in Bovine Somatic Cells and Improves Their Reprogramming into Totipotency. Biol Reprod 95 (1):16- (2016).  Click here for full text. 

Meng F, Forrester-Gauntlett B, Turner P, Henderson H, Oback B. Signal inhibition reveals JAK/STAT3 pathway as critical for bovine inner cell mass development Biol Reprod 93 (6):132- (2015). Click here for full text. 

McLean Z, Meng F, Henderson H, Turner P, Oback B. Increased MAP Kinase Inhibition Enhances Epiblast-Specific Gene Expression in Bovine Blastocysts. Biol Reprod. 2014 Aug;91(2):49. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.114.120832. Epub 2014 Jul 9. click here for full text

Benhal P, Chase JG, Gaynor P, Oback B, Wang W.
AC electric field induced dipole-based on-chip 3D cell rotation.
Lab Chip. 2014 Aug 7;14(15):2717-27. doi: 10.1039/c4lc00312h. Epub 2014 Jun 16. click here for full text

Harris D, Huang B, Oback B. Inhibition of MAP2K and GSK3 Signaling Promotes Bovine Blastocyst Development and Epiblast-Associated Expression of Pluripotency Factors. Biol Reprod 88 (3):74-. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.112.103390. (2013). click here for full text

Verma V, Huang B, Kallingappa PK, Oback B. Dual kinase inhibition promotes pluripotency in finite bovine embryonic cell lines. Stem Cells Dev. doi:10.1089/scd.2012.0481 (2013). click here for full text

Antony J, Oback F, Chamley LW, Oback B, Laible G. Transient JMJD2B-Mediated Reduction of H3K9me3 Levels Improves Reprogramming of Embryonic Stem Cells into Cloned Embryos. Mol Cell Biol 33 (5):974-983 (2013). click here for full text

Eghbalsaied S, Ghaedi K, Laible G, Hosseini SM, Forouzanfar M, Hajian M, Oback F, Nasr-Esfahani MH, Oback B. Exposure to DNA is insufficient for in vitro transgenesis of live bovine sperm and embryos. Reproduction 145 (1):97-108 (2013). click here for full text

Huang, B., Li, T., Alonso-Gonzalez, L., Gorre, R., Keatley, S., Green, A., Turner, P., Kallingappa, P., Verma, V. and Oback, B. (2011). A virus-free poly-promoter vector induces pluripotency in quiescent bovine cells under chemically defined conditions of dual kinase inhibition. PLoS ONE, 6, e24501. click here for full text

Clow, A., Gaynor P. & Oback, B.A. (2010). A novel micropit device integrates automated cell positioning by dielectrophoresis and nuclear transfer by electrofusion. Biomed Microdevices 12, 777-786. click here for full text

Oback, B. (2009). Cloning from stem cells – different lineages, different species, same story. Reprod Fertil Dev 21, 83-94.click here for full text