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RTIS grant to support collaboration with Harvard University

The grant is entitled “Bioengineered organs-on-chip models: A new approach to investigate the radiobiological effects of cancer radiotherapy ” and is funded under the Cancer Research theme of the University of South Australia.

This project will demonstrate the feasibility of using bioengineered “organs-on-chip” models to obtain quantitative radiobiological insights and accelerate  the establishment of new research links with Prof Harald Paganetti (Radiation Oncology, Harvard University) and Dr Amir Aref (Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard University) as well as with the French Biotech company Cherry Biotech.

Review article on Cell-based NIPT published in Trends in Biotechnology

Well done to Marnie, Meysam and all other co-authors for the publication of our review article  “A Reappraisal of Circulating Fetal Cell Noninvasive Prenatal Testing” in Trends in Biotechnology.

Figure 1

Abstract: New tools for higher-resolution fetal genome analysis including microarray and next-generation sequencing have revolutionized prenatal screening. This article provides commentary on this rapidly advancing field and a future perspective emphasizing circulating fetal cell (CFC) utility. Despite the tremendous technological challenges associated with their reliable and cost-effective isolation from maternal blood, CFCs have a strong potential to bridge the gap between the diagnostic sensitivity of invasive procedures and the desirable noninvasive nature of cell-free fetal DNA (cffDNA). Considering the rapid advances in both rare cell isolation and low-input DNA analysis, we argue here that CFC-based noninvasive prenatal testing is poised to be implemented clinically in the near future.

CBNS Roadshow at Unley High School

Congratulation to all the CBNS team for putting together a very successful event at Unley High School as part f the 2018 CBNS Roadshow. The event featured talks by Clive, Benjamin, Michelle, Duy and Chelsea as well as hands-on activities. The VR “Journey to the Centre of the Cell” featured on Channel 9. You can watch it here.

Congratulation to Aidan for being a finalist in the 2018 Prime Minister New Innovator Prize

Unfortunately the first prize went to Dr Geoff Rogers for his excellent wok on developing a new cardiovascular technology but congratulation to Aidan for being a Finalist in this very prestigious Award.

More about the ceremony in Canberra and the PM Awards here.

Marnie finalist in the 2018 Winnovation Award

Congratulation to Marnie for being a finalist in the 2018 Winnovation award in the Technology category.

Winnovation 2018



Success for our NHMRC Development Grant application

Our NHMRC Development Grant application has been awarded – congratulation to the team! The details are as follow:

NHMRC Development grant, Benjamin Thierry, Richard Tilley (UNSW), Andrew Foreman (RAH), Ruirui Rao (Monash), Development of Superior Sentinel Lymph Node Mapping Procedures using Magnetic Tracers, 609k, 2019-2020

This NHMRC Development grant builds on technologies developed at the Future Industry Institute towards the validation of better staging procedures for head and neck cancer. It brings together the strong expertise in the fields of medical device, nanotechnology and oncology at UniSA, UNSW, Monash University, the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Ferronova Ltd Pty.

Super Drugs and Mini Guts at Science week!

The “Super Drugs and Mini Guts” Science week event featured in the Advertiser. Congratulation to Marnie and all the organisation team.

SMART materials and designer drugs take advantage of nanotechnology, the science of the super small, and now school students can learn the tricks of the trade.

Young scientists at UniSA are inviting Year 11 students and their teachers to take a free tour behind the scenes during National Science Week on Thursday, August 16.

National Science Week is officially August 11 to 19, but South Australia has a head start with a huge program of events throughout the month.

During the three-hour interactive event called “Super Drugs and Mini Guts”, students will use virtual reality to enter a single cell and have a look around.

They will also get a closer look at a microchip embedded with hollow tubes lined with human intestinal cells, the “mini gut” or “intestine-on-a-chip”.

PhD student Tahlia Meola says the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology won a National Science Week grant to offer the event free of charge.

“The event is a great opportunity for students to come and talk to researchers, which is something they may not always be able to do,” she said.

“They can ask questions about what it’s like to work in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) area and get a real feel for it.”

Everyone at the Centre works at the nanoscale, which is incredibly small, as Ms Meola explains: “a nanometre is really, really tiny, it’s one billionth of a metre, so we can’t visualise it with the eye”.

Students can also play around with the nano-T-shirt, which has a special coating that makes it repel water.

“So if you throw a liquid at the T-shirt it will fall off in beads … just like water falling off a duck’s back,” Ms Meola said.

“The way it relates to our work is we use different types of coatings for drugs and particles when we deliver them to the body, so we can target specific sites.”

Ms Meola is developing a better way to deliver anti-psychotic drugs, which currently need to be taken with fatty food. She says smarter medicines would combine the drug with oil in tablet form.

 Visit or email for more information.



Prenatal Diagnostic work featured on National TV

Congratulation to the Non-Invasive Prenatal Diagnostic team for being featured on National TV last night. The piece broadcasted on Chanel 7 illustrates the huge potential of our fetal cell-based non-invasive prenatal testing approach. A lot more exciting work to come soon.

Watch it here!

Success in ARC Linkage grant

Great news today with the announcement of successful ARC Linkage grants. Our project aimed at the “Detection and viability of waterborne pathogens using a gut-on-chip” has been funded. Prof Una Ryan from Murdoch University is leading the project which will bring together her team in Western Australian with UniSA, SA Water, Seqwater and Water NSW.


Our cell-based non-invasive prenatal testing project features in media

Congratulation to the whole team – the recently published article in Advanced Technologies Materials has gathered some media attention. In addition to featuring in the Adelaide Advertiser, this work has been picked up in a number of media outlets:

The Unisa press release:

A wide range of fetal genetic abnormalities could soon be detected in early pregnancy thanks to a world-first study led by University of South Australia researchers using lab-on-a-chip, non-invasive technology.

Biomedical engineers Dr Marnie Winter and Professor Benjamin Thierry from UniSA’s Future Industries Institute (FII) and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology  (CBNS) are part of a team of researchers who have isolated fetal cells from maternal blood using a tiny microfluidic device, allowing for improved genetic testing.

The technology breakthrough is published today (Thursday 14 June) in Advanced Materials Technologies.

Lab-on-a-chip (LOC) technology integrates laboratory functions on a chip ranging from a few millimetres to a few square centimetres. The special design of the device allows large volumes of blood to be screened, paving the way for an efficient, cheap and quick method of separating fetal cells from maternal blood cells.

“We are hopeful that this device could result in a new, non-invasive prenatal diagnostic test able to detect a wide range of genetic abnormalities in early pregnancy from a simple blood sample,” Dr Winter says.

Currently, prenatal diagnostic tests involve an amniocentesis procedure or taking a sample of cells from the placenta (chorionic villus sampling), both of which carry a risk of inducing miscarriage.

“From about five weeks into the pregnancy, fetal cells originating from the placenta can be found in a mother’s bloodstream. Using modern microfluidic technology, we can now isolate these extremely rare cells (about one in a million) from the mother’s white blood cells and collect them for genetic analysis,” she says.

The UniSA researchers, working in collaboration with Dr Majid Warkiani from the University of Technology Sydney and specialists from the Women’s and Children’s Hospital,  SA Pathology and Repromed, adapted the device from one initially developed to isolate tumour cells from the blood of cancer patients.

“Many pregnant women would be aware of the new tests based on circulating fetal DNA that – with a simple blood test – help determine the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome.

“These tests have revolutionised prenatal care, but they can only detect a small subset of genetic conditions and are not always accurate. We hope this LOC technology will be able to reliably detect a greater range of genetic abnormalities, providing more information to families and healthcare providers,” Dr Winter says.

Professor Thierry, who leads UniSA’s Bioengineering group, says there is significant scope to further develop the lab-on-a-chip concept.

“We are collaborating with industry partners to translate this technology in routine clinical prenatal diagnostics and make it available in the future to screen low and medium-risk pregnancies,” he says.

Professor Emily Hilder, Director of UniSA’s FII, says: “This research breakthrough is testament to the cutting-edge technology being developed at the Future Industries Institute. UniSA is a leading player in LOC technology thanks to our ANFF-SA micro and nanofabrication facility at Mawson Lakes.”