Biomedical and environmental sensor technology research projects

The BEST Centre is focused on developing the next generation of sensor technology. Our research covers a broad range of areas from health and disease diagnosis to sensing for transport and energy networks.

Nanofabricated molecular imaging devices for disease diagnostics and environmental monitoring

Project leader: Brian Abbey. Collaborators: Shanshan Kou

Development of nanostructured microscope slides to detect the presence of diseased or abnormal cells (e.g. cancer or MS) and also to monitor changes in chemical composition at the nanoscale through combination with microfluidics

Nanoscale phase contrast imaging combined with metal-conjugated antibody detection

Project leader: Brian Abbey. Collaborators: Grant van Riessen, David Hoxley

X-ray fluorescence measurements conducted at the Australian synchrotron using metal-conjugated antibodies permit molecular tracking with a much larger parameter space than current optical approaches. When combined with ultrasensitive phase contrast mapping (ptychography) this project will deliver a new X-ray based technique for molecular imaging in-situ which simultaneously characterises the tissue microstructure.

Optical nanoscopy of lipid membranes

Project leader: Shanshan Kou. Collaborators: Adam Mechler, Brian Abbey

Using the newly develop La Trobe near-surface optical microscope we will continue to develop quantitative optical microscopy methods for charactering the composition and topography of cell membranes.

Functional heterobimetallic probes for sensing sugars

Project leader: Peter Barnard. Collaborators: Hogan, Hulett, Boron Molecular Pty Ltd.

Development of new molecular organometallic probes for sensing biologically important carbohydrates and glycalated proteins. This project will result in improved methods for diagnosis and management of diseases associated with these markers such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

New miniaturised instruments for point-of-care immunodiagnostic applications

Project leader: Conor Hogan.  Collaborators: Van Reissen, Hoxley, Molecular Sciences workshop (Pawlowski and Huwald).

This project epitomizes in many ways the principles of BEST. A collaboration which seeks to translate some of the high impact fundamental science emerging from the chemistry discipline in recent years, by leveraging expertise in the physics discipline in instrument development; and the largely untapped resource comprising the electronics and product design capabilities of the School of Molecular Sciences workshop. Underpinned by solid market research, this project will provide a new platform to showcase next generation diagnostics.

Fluorescent reporters for sensing and imaging proteostasis dysfunction

Project leader: Yuning Hong.  Collaborators: Barnard, Hogan.

Developing novel fluorescent probes to quantify proteostasis, which ensures proper protein folding and function, and prevents accumulation of unfolded and misfolded proteins. Methods to quantify proteostasis capacity and the impact on individual proteins on a global scale in cell are currently lacking. Therefore, we are developing novel fluorescent probes which are being tested by collaborators in the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Ohio, USA.

Innovative approaches to sensing based on synthetic biology

Project leader: Ashley Franks, Collaborators: Conor Hogan

The rapid detection of contaminants at low concentrations is essential to prevent the spread of nefarious substances through the environment. Sensitivity and specificity of detection is vital to prevent environmental and economic damage.  Synthetic biology provides a systematic approach to rationalising molecular pathways within microbes allowing the programming desired outputs from specific inputs such as heavy metals.

Mobile phone-based based point-of-care diagnostics

Project leader: Conor Hogan. Collaborators: Hamsa Puthalakath, Belinda Abbott, Michael Foley, Darrell Elton.

Detection of Sepsis and Malaria biomarkers utilising only a cheap disposable sensor strip and the built-in audio and camera of a mobile phone to carry out sophisticated electrochemical and luminescence-based analyses. More broadly, making inexpensive, quantitative sensors for medical sensing applications to make chemical and biochemical analysis, usually confined to the lab, widely available through similar “instrument free” analysis

New Electrochemiluminescence based detection strategies

Project leader: Conor Hogan. Collaborators: Peter Barnard, Jason Dutton, David Wilson, Megan Magher.

Develop novel supramolecular assemblies that exhibit electrochemically-sensitized luminescence (ESL) by coupling metal complex donors to either luminescent nanoparticles or fluorescent proteins. These assemblies are predicted to have unique sensing properties using simple analytes and bio-markers.