“The Wyss Institute have developed a clever antifouling coating that can be incorporated into the biosensor platform, offering a new diagnostic tool for COVID-19 that can be printed onto plastic strips at massive scale,” Professor Dastoor said.
How it’s made
Professor Dastoor and his team have already developed a small-scale ‘factory on campus’ at the University’s Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER), including ink synthesis, custom printing and equipment fabrication.
“We’ve built a commercial-scale facility in our lab, however, this is a shared resource used to advance some of our other technologies including our printed solar panels (pictured below), which there is also huge demand for. A dedicated manufacturing facility for biosensors in the Hunter will enable us to dramatically ramp up production of the saliva biosensor to meet global demand,” Professor Dastoor said.
The ‘factory on campus’, which is supported by the Australian National Fabrication Facilities (ANFF) Materials Node, is at the cutting edge of an emerging industry known as ‘functional printing’, where instead of producing text and images, printers are producing printed electronic or ‘functional’ devices.
The reel-to-reel printer in Professor Dastoor’s lab previously printed wine labels.
With functional printing, Professor Dastoor’s team marry the old and the new, using conventional printers combined with proprietary electronic inks, to achieve low-cost production of advanced materials.
“What we’ve been able to do for the first time is combine printed electronics with biological sensing. That means we’re able to detect molecules like glucose, using sensors we can print hundreds of millions of, using really low-cost printing equipment,” Professor Dastoor said.
Professor Dastoor said functional printing could help reignite the shrinking traditional print manufacturing sector.
“Disruption in the traditional print industry has left a great deal of useful equipment stranded. Functional printing of electronic devices such as the saliva glucose biosensor is an opportunity to recommission this idle equipment, resuscitating onshore manufacturing industries and creating jobs for skilled workers,” Professor Dastoor said.
Initially licensed in 2016 to commercial research partner, The iQ Group Global – a life sciences company developing non-invasive, real-time diagnostic testing for patients, the saliva glucose biosensor was listed on the NASDAQ on Christmas Eve in 2020 under GBS Inc. It raised US$21.6 million (AU$27.4 million) at its Initial Public Offering (IPO).
It’s the first University of Newcastle innovation to appear on an international stock exchange and has been on a rapid commercialisation trajectory ever since.
“To see the biosensor on shelves, changing lives will be immensely satisfying, it’s why we do the work we do,” Professor Dastoor said.