The BEST Centre Virtual Forum success

On 15 May 2020 the BEST (Biomedical and Environmental Sensor Technology) centre, in collaboration with the Research and Innovation Precinct team, held an Industry-Academia forum with a theme of “Sensing and Diagnostics”.

Traditionally this event would have been face-to-face but with COVID-19 restrictions the event was held on-line. Pleasingly, the on-line format brought together over 50 attendees from research and industry, including attendees from across different Schools at La Trobe, other universities, companies and from interstate organisations.

The audience heard three speakers discuss different aspects of the development of diagnostics for detection of pathogen outbreaks. One key insight across all three talks was that our research and development efforts are constantly outpaced by our need for new diagnostics in human and animal health.

La Trobe’s Professor Travis Beddoe showcased the work of the Centre for Livestock Interaction with Pathogens, and their ‘bench to barn’ research programs, with an example of the development of a rapid, on-farm test for footrot in sheep.

Sean Liu from BGI Genomics, a China-based global genomics company, outlined how BGI delivered their large-scale COVID-19 diagnostic program in China. This included the rapid up-scaling, commissioning and deployment of many large pathology laboratories including equipment installation and refining protocols for staff protection, sample collection and data reporting protocols.

Mark Chan, a graduate researcher at La Trobe with professional experience as a pathologist, detailed the process and timeline from the first identification of SARS-CoV2 as a new disease through to development of a diagnostic. This talk highlighted the many challenges in globally developing robust diagnostic procedures from protocols through to the bottlenecks in sourcing reagents and components in an international supply chain.

Networking has always been a feature of BEST events, and after the presentations, attendees were encouraged to continue the conversation on-line. It was great to see that even through the limitations of a virtual meeting that some new connections were made, with two researchers agreeing to connect further to talk about silk worms!

Given the success of the virtual event, the BEST Research Centre and the Research and Innovation Precinct team, are aiming to host these themed events more regularly and welcome suggestions for topics. For more information please visit our website

Thank-you to all those who attended and presented. We look forward to seeing you all again shortly at our next virtual forum.