Title:  Revolutionizing sample preparation for low-resource molecular testing

Speaker:  A/Prof Joanne Macdonald, University of the Sunshine Coast & Chief Technology Officer BiCifer

Abstract:  Sample preparation represents a significant bottleneck in molecular detection, impeding the speed and accessibility of testing. Conventional methods involve time-consuming purification steps, specialized equipment, and stringent biohazard precautions. To overcome these challenges, my team has developed an innovative sample preparation solution: TNA-Cifer Reagent E. This reagent offers a simple sample preparation process, completing in just 2-10 minutes, while also inactivating certain pathogens, enhancing testing safety beyond traditional laboratory settings.

TNA-Cifer Reagent E is remarkably versatile. We have demonstrated detection various sample types including nasal swabs, serum, blood, tissue, and even crushed mosquitoes. Its adaptability extends to the detection of bacteria, parasites, and viruses, as well as genetic testing in both animals and humans. The reagent has been integrated with diverse detection techniques, including real-time PCR, isothermal amplification and lateral flow detection, as well as MassARRAY genetic testing. With TNA-Cifer Reagent E, we now have the potential to streamline high-throughput screening in traditional laboratories and simplify robotics and microfluidic automations for point-of-care detection.

By successfully navigating through contract manufacturing, quality testing, and ensuring room temperature storage and shipping stability, we have now finalized manufacturing and released the reagent for commercial research use. This was a significant step towards transforming low resource testing capabilities, facilitating efficient and accessible sample preparation for molecular detection.

Bio: Dr. Joanne Macdonald is an Associate Professor, Molecular Engineering at the University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC) and the founder and Chief Technology Officer of BioCifer Pty Ltd. She recently completed a $2.5 million DMTC-funded diagnostic manufacturing project, resulting in the release of her novel sample preparation reagent for research use. This project was recognized with a National Innovation Award High Commendation at the Land Forces exhibition (Brisbane, 2022) and a Project Leadership award at the DMTC Awards for Excellence (Canberra, 2023). Dr. Macdonald's research extends beyond diagnostics, encompassing the development of a DNA-based automata capable of playing tic-tac-toe, a visual interface for generating text displays, and engineered cells for toxin detection and detoxification. She also co-developed an enzyme drug for treating cocaine overdose, which obtained Breakthrough Drug Therapy designation from the FDA. With over 50 scientific articles, 2,100 citations (H-index 20), and 14 patents, Dr. Macdonald's contributions use molecular engineering and synthetic biology towards reducing the burden of human and animal diseases, to foster thriving and sustainable communities



About School research seminars

Seminars cover all aspects of chemistry and molecular biosciences and are delivered by visiting national and international academics. PhD completion seminars are also incorporated into the program.

Seminars are usually held in person and via zoom. All are welcome to attend.