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Biological Sensing and Medical Diagnostics

Developing new technologies in conjunction with clinicians and biologists, pushing the boundaries of speed, sensitivity and sample volumes.

Theme Leaders



Biological Sensing and Medical Diagnostics
  • Biological Sensing and Medical Diagnostics Overview

    IPAS research in this Theme seeks to:

    • Create measurement tools to enable new questions to be asked in biology and medicine
    • Develop improved medical diagnostic techniques, including ‘point of decision’ technologies
    • Advance next generation proteomics technologies for cancer diagnostics and treatment
    • Discover and detect biomarkers using Tissue Imaging Mass Spectrometry
    • Investigate proteins and peptides underpinning the development and prevention of diseases
    • Design and develop drugs, including the identification and synthesis of novel small molecules to block or activate cellular targets.
  • Biomarker Discovery

    This work investigates cancers through the identification of new biomarkers, increasing our capacity to detect, identify and quantify proteins and peptides with high sensitivity and accuracy.

    We use mass spectrometry and 2D gel electrophoresis combined with difference gel electrophoresis fluorescence labelling and isotopic labelling for protein identification and quantification. Driven by the need for the early diagnosis of cancer and monitoring of the disease’s progression, it also provides a better understanding of the disease at a molecular level.

  • Tissue Imaging Mass Spectrometry (MALDI Imaging)

    In recent years, we have implemented and improved matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) in our laboratories. MALDI-IMS determines the spatial distribution of unknown compounds in tissue sections. Tissue sections prepared using the standard clinical pathology procedure, formalin fixed paraffin embedding (FFPE), can be used.

    During the last decade this technique has been developed as a powerful tool for the discovery of new markers which correlate with disease severity or metastasis as well as for the confirmation of known markers like HER2 receptor status. This method combines both biomarker identification and validation in one step

  • Protein Structure, Function and Interactions

    Research efforts are directed towards development of new approaches (primarily using mass spectrometry and complementary biophysical methods such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, circular dichroism, fluorescence spectroscopy, electron microscopy) to obtain insight into the 3D structure, function and interactions of macromolecules, such as proteins and DNA, important in biology. We focus much of our work on enhancing understanding and building models of unknown multi-molecular systems involved in human disease.

  • Biosensing Platform Development

    Harnessing breakthroughs from our other Themes, we create new biosensing tools for advancing biological research, and collaborate with medical researchers to enable translation to clinical applications.

    This area is been supported by three of our six ARC Super Science Fellowships spanning:

    • DNA detection in small volumes
    • In vivo fertility probes
    • Protein separation and detection.

    New sensor architectures include:

    • Small-volume in-fibre fluorescence assays
    • Fibre-tip sensors for in vivo diagnostics
    • A multi-channel sensor for virus, bacteria and biomarker detection for gastric cancer.
  • Metathesis and Click Chemistry

    We design, synthesise and test inhibitors to solve clinical challenge. Our investigations concentrate on proteolytic enzymes and small heat-shock chaperone proteins (sHsp) associated with amyloid fibril formation.

    We work to incorporate molecular ‘switches’ that when activated, mimic a key protein or peptide. Our aim is the improved treatment and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, cataracts and cancer.

  • STARR Laboratory

    The Sensing Technologies for Advanced Reproductive Research (STARR) laboratory is dedicated to the development of photonics-based reproductive health technologies. Co-locating sensor development and embryology laboratories in the University of Adelaide enhances interactions between physicists and biomedical researchers and greatly accelerates the integration of sensor development with existing medical instrumentation and animal models.

    The STARR facility is a $1.4M initiative by the State SA’s Premier's Science and Research Fund (PSRF) and is a partnership between The University of Adelaide, Cook Medical Reproductive Health Science Pty Ltd, Fertility SA and Flinders Reproductive Medicine.

Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing

North Terrace Campus
The Braggs Building
The University of Adelaide
Adelaide SA 5005


T: +61 8 8313 9254

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