Australia and China pool research strengths in point-of-care diagnostics

The development of a next generation device that can detect minute quantities of disease biomarkers in a patient’s bloodstream, at point-of-care, is the focus of a new Australia-China Joint Research Centre.
The device will integrate a miniaturised microscope, with microsensors on a chip, and smartphone readout to detect the trace amount of circulating nucleic acids in the blood stream. An increase in the levels of these molecules can be an indicator of a range of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders and infections.

The Australia-China Joint Research Centre (JRC) for Point of Care Testing will be led by University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry Science (CIAC). Federal government funding of A$936,000, from the Australia-China Science and Research Fund, will be matched by the Chinese Government to establish the Centre aimed at addressing challenges facing the health sectors in both countries, strengthening ties with global partners and boosting research capacity.

Researchers at UTS, three Chinese Academy of Science institutes and South University of Science and Technology of China, together with Australian research and commercial partners, will combine their expertise in nanotechnology, diagnostics and rare earth-based optical materials to produce a compact, low cost and easy to use device that can be used in point-of-care settings such as GPs’ surgeries and patients’ homes.

Professor Dayong Jin, Director of the UTS Institute for Biomedical Materials and Devices (IBMD), will co-lead the new JRC and said that the ability to identify and monitor these molecules means “we can develop a non-invasive early-stage diagnostic tool”.

“Personalised healthcare practices that lead to much improved survival rates are highly sought across the globe, but to date there is no single technique that works by itself to help tackle major global health challenges, like the detection of cancer in its very early stages. Bringing together smart minds with complementary skills and resources will help make this a reality.
“The funding of this new centre positions Australia and China at the forefront of innovation in diagnostic biotechnology,” he said.

In Australia, the UTS School of Biomedical Engineering and the Elemental Bio-imaging Facility will be connected into the new centre together with the University of Wollongong and commercial partners SpeeDx, Design+Industry, and the China Australia Technology Investment Group (CATIG).