Portable, easy-to-use devices capable of detecting disease or testing for drugs are the focus of a multimillion-dollar research collaboration launched today by Federal MP Craig Laundy, assistant minister for industry, innovation and science.
The IDEAL research hub aims to advance industry’s ability to develop portable, user-friendly analytical devices by creating technologies that are faster, more sensitive and selective, and more cost-effective to detect biological and chemical molecules at low levels.
The IDEAL or Integrated Device for End-User Analysis at Low Levels research hub is an Australian Research Council-funded collaboration between the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), the University of South Australia (UniSA) and four industry partners.
Hub director is physicist Professor Dayong Jin, who heads the Institute for Biomedical Materials and Devices at UTS; deputy director is analytical chemist Professor Emily Hilder, who leads the Future Industries Institute at the UniSA.
“We look forward to the hub becoming a leader in transforming scientific research into industry-inspired technology developments that will benefit the wellbeing of people everywhere,” says Professor Jin.
“Already we have developed the technology to make exciting ‘needle in a haystack’ discoveries – to find a single cell and trace amount of a disease marker in a sample of blood or in a urine specimen. Our innovative team of researchers, experts in physics, engineering and biology, are working on the next steps, tailoring our platform technologies, integrating them and aligning them with our industry partners’ needs.
“If an over-the-counter testing kit can confirm pregnancy in a matter of moments, why not do the same with cancer, or with performance-enhancing drugs, or a toxin like botulism? That’s our goal – to create the next generation of medical tests that are simple and easy to use.”
UniSA’s Professor Emily Hilder says the IDEAL hub has the potential to develop and deliver world-beating technology for a global market.
“What is fantastic about this new research hub is that it is harnessing the skills of some of the very best researchers in Australia across a range of disciplines in science and engineering to deliver advanced diagnostic solutions for a wide range of uses,” Professor Hilder says.
“It proves the value of national partnerships between universities, industry and end-users in delivering new technologies and new business opportunities that Australia can take to the world.”
IDEAL industry partner Dr Brad Walsh, who is chief executive officer of immuno-oncology company Minomic International Ltd, says his company’s involvement with the IDEAL research hub is an example of the powerful impact that can be achieved when industry and science join forces.
“By engaging with the research early, we can make sure devices are commercially viable, that they are fit for purpose,” he says.
Minomic’s MiCheck® test to screen for prostate cancer, which is undergoing clinical trials, will be further enhanced for sensitivity, selectivity and speed through a long-standing collaboration involving Dr Walsh, Professor Jin and Professor Tanya Monro, now Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of South Australia. In 2015, the team won a Eureka Prize for their work creating nanocrystals to illuminate hidden diseased cells.
IDEAL research hub chief investigators: Dayong Jin, Stella Valenzuela, Igor Aharonovich, Shanlin Fu, Charles Cranfield and Olga Shimoni (all from UTS); Emily Hilder, David Lancaster, Beatriz Prieto-Simon, Dario Arrua and Craig Priest (all from the University of South Australia).
IDEAL research hub industry partner investigators: Bradley Walsh (Minomic), Bruce Cornell (Surgical Diagnostics), Michael Kleinig (Preg Tech) and Roger Hunt (Alcolizer).
- Alcolizer – development of a fast and inexpensive test able to detect illicit drugs at a minuscule level in the bloodstream for roadside testing of drivers
- Minomic – development of a non-invasive and accurate microfluidics tool to detect prostate cancer, addressing the problem of false positives that occur with existing testing
- Preg Tech and Surgical Diagnostics – development of a biosensor to detect ovulation in dairy cows