LIMS scientists forge ties between Australia and Brazil

Meet Dr Saimon Moraes Silva (LIMS and School of Agriculture, Biomedicine and Environment) and Dr Dênio Emanuel Pires Souto (Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil).

Friends since their days studying for their master's degrees more than ten years ago, in 2020 they began collaborating academically to develop new biosensors – devices which detect the presence of chemicals by measuring the reaction of a biological component, such as enzymes, DNA and antibodies, to a sample.

They can be designed for use in many different settings, from diagnostic and disease monitoring in healthcare, to environmental testing to detect chemical pollutants.

For the past six months, Dr Souto has been visiting Dr Silva’s lab in LIMS, and together they have been working on a new biosensor platform for cancer monitoring.

But their first collaboration was to develop biosensors for environmental testing.

“In 2020, we got a joint grant through the Victorian Government and the State of Paraná in Brazil to develop point-of-need biosensors which could detect PFAS pollutants – ‘forever chemicals’ which don’t break down once in the environment,” Dr Silva said.

The grant was not just a fantastic opportunity to conduct innovative biosensor research; it also helped the pair foster scientific ties between Australia and Brazil, which they have strengthened through their continued work.

This opportunity has offered the two scientists the chance to share their knowledge and expertise with each other’s lab members; last year, Dr Silva hosted one of Dr Souto’s PhD students on an exchange program and now, Dr Souto is returning the favour during his stay.

“In addition to conducting the experiments in the laboratory, I have enjoyed having opportunity to co-supervise the activities developed by Saimon’s postgraduate students,” Dr Souto said.

Dr Silva also hosted one of Dr Souto’s PhD students on an exchange program last year, and in April will visit Brazil to conduct research in Dr Souto’s lab, co-supervise his students, and give lectures and seminars.

With the end of February fast approaching, Dr Souto’s time at LIMS is coming to a close.

Despite only being here for a short time, the visit has seen fantastic progress in their research, while also continuing to strengthen the ties between Australia and Brazil.

“Through Dr Souto’s experiments using the facilities at LIMS, we were able to answer some crucial scientific questions related to proteins’ behaviour and interactions on solid surfaces. This new knowledge will be very useful for the creation of new biosensor platforms, which is a big focus in my group,” Dr Silva said.

“This visit has been an excellent opportunity to strengthen scientific cooperation between the state of Paraná in Brazil and the state of Victoria here in Australia. It has contributed to the increase in intellectual production, and has resulted in new opportunities for international exchange programs for postgraduate students, as well as scientific visits for academics from both universities,” Dr Souto said.