AIBN VennAIBN moves beyond traditional boundaries to focus on areas that will alleviate current problems in human health, manufacturing, information technology and the environment.

This has resulted in a highly-integrated environment with major research in the areas of:

  • Nanotechnology-based imaging and drug delivery for therapeutic products;
  • Regenerative medicine: biology, stem cells and novel scaffolds;
  • Novel protein expression utilising metabolomics and systems biotechnology; and
  • Nanotechnology for energy and environmental applications.

This will lead to new products, processes and devices that improve human health and quality of life. Through focused research outcomes AIBN goes beyond basic research to promote new applications and industries that will benefit the Queensland and Australian economies. Our unique capabilities merge the skills of engineers, chemists, biologists and computational scientists to conduct world-class research programs.


  • Advanced Materials for New Generation Solar Cells

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Energy, Materials, Low Cost Solar Cells, Photoelectrodes, Electrolyte, Senisitizer, Efficiency

    Project summary

    Silicon based solar cells are promising for solar energy conversion while their cost is still a major concern. This research program aims to develop cost-effective, stable and efficient new generation solar cells. The challenges include developing new phtotoelectrodes, nano-sized sensitisers and stable electrolytes which are solution-processable for high efficient  solid-state solar cells.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Lianzhou Wang
    Research group Nanomac
    Contact email l.wang@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Energy, Materials, Low Cost Solar Cells, Photoelectrodes, Electrolyte, Senisitizer, Efficiency
  • An integrated systems and synthetic biology platform to expand the product spectrum of acetogens

    Project keywords

    Systems Biology, Manufacturing, Energy, Sustainability, Aviation fuel, Gas fermentation, Acetogens, Clostridia, Proteomics, Metabolomics, Transcriptomics

    Project summary

    Greenhouse gases that are currently environmental pollutants can be converted into aviation fuel and other valuable chemicals through bacterial fermentation. Some specialized bacteria, known as acetogens, are capable of fixing CO, CO2 and H2 and naturally convert it into ethanol and acetate. Using systems and synthetic biology we can fundamentally understand the metabolism of these organisms to improve the scope of its products into higher value-added molecules. This project aims to construct the world’s first systems biology platform for actegens to understand and overcome fundamental energy limitations in their metabolism. Achieving this aim will be of direct relevance to the aviation industry in Australia on their path to deliver sustainable jet-fuels.

    Publications

    Marcellin E, Behrendorff JB, Nagaraju S, DeTissera S, Segovia S, Palfreyman RW, Daniell J, Licona-Cassani C, Quek LE, Speight R, Hodson MP, Simpson SD, Mitchell WP, Köpke M, Nielsen LK (2016) Low carbon fuels and commodity chemicals from waste gases – Systematic approach to understand energy metabolism in a model acetogen. Green Chemistry. Accepted 05.01.2016.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Esteban Marcellin, Professor Lars Nielsen
    Research group AIBN Systems & Synthetic Biology
    Contact email e.marcellin@uq.edu.au

     

    Project keywords Systems Biology, Manufacturing, Energy, Sustainability, Aviation fuel, Gas fermentation, Acetogens, Clostridia, Proteomics, Metabolomics, Transcriptomics Project summary Greenhouse gases that are currentl...
  • Antibody-targeted delivery of nanoparticles to cancer cells

    Project keywords

    Nanobiotechnology, Health, Antibody, Targeted delivery, Nanoparticle, Cancer, Cytotoxins

    Project summary

    The research projects are associated with targeted delivery of nanoparticles carrying cytotoxic drugs to cancer cells. Targeting the nanoparticles is accomplished through conjugation of monoclonal antibody fragments to nanoparticles of various compositions (including polymers, proteins and lipids). Antibodies targeting EGFR and VEGFR2 have been cloned and expressed as scFv antibody fragments. Other targets and antibodies to these targets are under investigation. The antibody fragments are subsequently conjugated to nanoparticles using a variety of chemistries and technologies. Antibody-conjugated nanoparticles are characterized by combinations of methodologies including plasmon surface resonance and fluorescence activated cell sorting to demonstrate binding to targets, and also a variety of in vitro and in vivo bioassays to demonstrate function.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Associate Professor Stephen Mahler
    Research group Mahler Group
    Contact email s.mahler@uq.edu.au

     

    Nanobiotechnology, Health, Antibody, Targeted delivery, Nanoparticle, Cancer, Cytotoxins
  • Approaches in Nanovaccinology

    Project keywords

    Nanovaccinology, Vaccine, Nanotechnology, Capsomere, Nanoparticle, Microbial platform, Synthetic biology, Self-assembly, Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Sustainability

    Project summary

    Nanovaccinology encompasses the use of nanotechnology for the development of vaccine. Vaccine has a proud history as one of the most successful public health interventions to date. As vaccine development increasingly moves toward subunit composition, drawing on modern concepts of rational design and improved safety profile, novel adjuvant formulations and delivery systems are increasingly needed to boost the immunogenicity of these “minimalist” vaccines.

    The Middelberg group is working at the intersection of vaccine engineering and nanotechnology, developing vaccine technology that can deliver vaccines at a speed and scale unattainable using currently approved vaccine manufacturing processes. The technology uses self-assemblies of viral capsid proteins that form a pentameric structure, called capsomere, as a delivery system to present antigenic modules from target diseases. Having viral molecular signature, modular capsomere induces potent immune response which could be boosted further by formulation with nanoparticles.

    This research involves vaccine design, bioprocessing, and formulation. Vaccine design explores strategic and structural presentation of antigenic modules. Vaccine bioprocessing explores protein expression, purification, and process optimisation, as well as thorough protein characterisation from primary to quaternary states. Vaccine formulation explores the use of cutting-edge nanotechnology to create virus-inspired nanoparticles as adjuvant. Together this research would bring a vaccine technology that can radically change the way we fight infectious diseases, such as influenza, Group A Streptococcus, and Rotavirus.
     

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Nani Wibowo
    Research group Middelberg Group
    Contact email n.wibowo@uq.edu.au

     

    Nanovaccinology, Vaccine, Nanotechnology, Capsomere, Nanoparticle, Microbial platform, Synthetic biology, Self-assembly, Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Sustainability
  • ATM at the crossroads of DNA damage, ageing and cerebellar degeneration.

    Project keywords

    iPSC, Ataxia-Telangiectasia, DNA damage, ATM, differentiation, Ageing, reporters, CRISPR

    Project summary

    Ataxia-Telangiectasia (A-T) is caused by mutations in the ATM kinase, a protein involved in DNA break repair and oxidative stress regulation. We have generated iPSC from human patients with A-T to study the degeneration of the hindbrain in this disease. We use CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tools to correct and introduce mutations in ATM in IPSC and multi-omics and advanced imaging technologies to probe the underlying molecular processes.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Ernst Wolvetang
    Research group Stem Cell Engineering Group
    Contact email e.wolvetang@uq.edu.au

     

    Project keywords iPSC, Ataxia-Telangiectasia, DNA damage, ATM, differentiation, Ageing, reporters, CRISPR Project summary Ataxia-Telangiectasia (A-T) is caused by mutations in the ATM kinase, a protein involved ...
  • Baculovirus biopesticides

    Project keywords

    Systems Biology, Systems Biotechnology, Sustainability, Fermentation, Baculovirus, Biopesticide

    Project summary

    Many of the most significant pests of agriculture and forestry, and vectors of human disease, have developed resistance to multiple conventional chemical insecticides; six species now account for more than US$5 billion worth of chemical insecticides (see Table 1). At the same time, pesticides based on new chemistries has become harder and more costly to develop, register and commercialise. "Wild-Type" Baculoviruses are one of the most promising biocontrol options for insect pests resistant to chemical insecticides, since the hosts are rarely able to develop resistance. However, conventional production in insectaries do not offer the necessary scale benefit to compete with selective chemicals.

    We are developing an in vitro (within bioreactors) production process that can produce large quantities of Baculovirus Biopesticides at costs comparable to selective chemicals (i.e. $20/Ha). It has the potential to transform agriculture, allowing farmers to choose an insect control option that is safe and efficacious to use, as well as economically and environmentally superior to chemicals. The project combines conventional biochemical engineering R&D with a systems biology approach to identify process parameters as well as cell line gene targets for yield improvements.

    Table 1: Economically important insect pests (Crop Protection Compendium 2006)1
    Insect pests Infected regions Effect Pesticides (US$/year)
    Helicoverpa Complex:(armigera, zea,virescens, assulta) Africa, Asia- Pacific, Europe, Middle East, North and South America Maize, sorghum, soybean, cotton, sunflower, pulses, hort., tobacco, $1.7 Billion
    Diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) Africa, Asia- Pacific, Europe, Middle East, North and South America crucifers, particularly cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers $1 Billion
    Spodoptera Species (exigua,frugiperda, littoralis, litura) Asia, Middle East, North and South America cotton, soybeans, sugar beet, lucerne, maize $800 Million
    Culex culex mosquitos (C.nigripalpus, C.tarsalis etc) Temperate regions of Europe and North America Encephalitis &. West Nile River Virus > 7,000 cases in US in 2003 $700 Million
    Codling Moth (Cydia pomonella) Australia, Europe, Central and South America pome fruit (i.e. apple, pear) $500 Million
    Velvetbean Caterpillar (Anticarsia gemmatalis) Central and South America beans (e.g. soybean) $350 Million

    1 Crop Protection Compendium. 2006. Reports on Helicoverpa, Spodoptera, Plutella, Cydia, Anticarsia and Culex. http://www.cabicompendium.org/cpc/datasheet.asp?CCODE=HELIAR&COUNTRY=0. Accessed 2007 April 21.

    Publications

     

    Huynh HT, Tran TT, Chan LC, Nielsen LK, Reid S (2015) Decline in Helicoverpa armigera nucleopolyhedrovirus occlusion body yields with increasing infection cell density in vitro is strongly correlated with viral DNA levels. Arch Virol 160: 2169-80. PMID: 26092423

    Huynh HT, Tran TT, Chan LC, Nielsen LK, Reid S (2015) Effect of the peak cell density of recombinant AcMNPV-infected Hi5 cells on baculovirus yields. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 99:1687-1700. PMID: 25472440

    Matindoost L, Hu H, Chan LC, Nielsen LK, Reid S (2014) The effect of cell line, phylogenetics and medium on baculovirus budded virus yield and quality. Arch Virol. 159: 91-102. PMID: 23884632

    Nguyen Q, Nielsen LK, Reid S (2013) Genome Scale Transcriptomics of Baculovirus-Insect Interactions. Viruses 5: 2721-2747. PMID: 24226166. PMC3856412

    Nguyen QH, Chan LCL, Nielsen LK, Reid S (2013) Genome scale analysis of differential mRNA expression of Helicoverpa zea insect cells infected with a H. armigera baculovirus. Virology 444: 158-170. PMID: 23827436

    Huynh HT, Tran TTB, Chan LCL, Nielsen LK, Reid S  (2013) Decline in baculovirus-expressed recombinant protein production with increasing cell density is strongly correlated to impairment of virus replication and mRNA expression. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 97:5245–5257. PMID: 23519736

    Matindoost L, Chan LCL, Qi YM, Nielsen LK, Reid S (2012) Suspension culture titration: A simple method for measuring baculovirus titers. Journal of Virological Methods 183: 201–209. PMID: 22561639

    Huynh HT, Chan LCL, Tran TTB, Nielsen LK, Reid S  (2012) Improving the robustness of a low-cost insect cell medium for baculovirus biopesticides production, via hydrolysate streamlining using a tube bioreactor-based statistical optimization routine. Biotechnology Prog 28: 788-802. PMID: 22323401

    Nguyen QH, Palfreyman RW, Chan LCL, Reid S, Nielsen LK (2012) Transcriptome sequencing of and microarray development for a Helicoverpa zea cell line to investigate in vitro insect cell-baculovirus interactions. PloS ONE 7(5):e36324. PMID: 22629315. PMC3356360

    Tran TTB, Dietmair S, Chan LCL, Huynh HT, Nielsen LK, Reid S (2012) Development of quenching and washing protocols for quantitative intracellular metabolite analysis of uninfected and baculovirus-infected insect cells. Methods 56: 396-407. PMID: 22166686

    Nguyen Q, Qi YM, Wu Y, Chan LCL, Nielsen LK, Reid S (2011) In vitro production of Helicoverpa baculovirus biopesticides - Automated selection of insect cell clones for manufacturing and systems biology studies. J. Virol. Meth. 175: 197-205. PMID: 21616093.

    Pedrini MRS, Reid S, Nielsen LK, Chan LCL (2010) Kinetic characterization of the Group II Helicoverpa armigera nucleopolyhedrovirus propagated in suspension cell cultures: implications for development of a biopesticides production process. Biotechnology Progress 27: 614-24. PMID: 21644255.

    Chen LCL, Reid S, Nielsen LK (2010) Baculovirus virus kinetics in insect cell culture. In: Encyclopedia of Industrial Biotechnology: Bioprocess, Bioseparation, and Cell Technology, ed. MC Flickinger. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN: 978-0-471-79930-6. Publication date: March 2010. 

    Pedrini MRD, Chan LCL, Nielsen LK, Reid S, (2006) In vitro production of Helicoverpa armigera single-nucleocapsid nucleopolyhedrovirus. Brazilian Archives of Biology and Technology 49: 35-41SI.

    Pedrini MRD, Christian P, Nielsen LK, Reid S, Chan LCL (2006) Importance of virus-medium interactions on the biological activity of wild-type Heliothine nucleopolyhedroviruses propagated via suspension insect cell cultures. Journal of Virological Methods 136:267-272.

    Haas R, Nielsen LK (2005) A Physiological Product-Release Model for Baculovirus Infected Insect Cells. Bioengineering & Biotechnology 91: 768-772.

    Pedrini MRS, Nielsen LK, Reid S, Chan LCL (2005) Properties of a unique mutant of Helicoverpa armigera single-nucleocapsid nucleopolyhedrovirus that exhibits both Many Polyhedra and Few Polyhedra phenotypes upon extended serial passaging in cell cultures. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology – Animal 41:289-297.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Steve Reid, Professor Lars Nielsen
    Research group AIBN Systems & Synthetic Biology
    Contact email steven.reid@uq.edu.au

     

     

    Project keywords Systems Biology, Systems Biotechnology, Sustainability, Fermentation, Baculovirus, Biopesticide Project summary Many of the most significant pests of agriculture and forestry, and vectors of human disease...
  • Bioengineering Virus-like Particle Vaccines for Infectious Disease

    Project keywords

    Vaccine, Virus-like particle, Rotavirus, Synthetic biology, Nanotechnology, Microbial platform, VLP, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Sustainability

    Project summary

    Virus-like Particles (VLPs) are a newly emerging vaccine technology, which resemble their live virus counterparts and are readily processed by the immune system, however they lack the genetic material required for virus replication.  Modular VLPs have the potential to present antigenic epitopes or proteins of a target disease, giving the antigenic module a viral molecular signature which induces potent immune response.  Furthermore, producing these modular VLPs in a recombinant microbial system, such as E. coli, offer a more rapid and cost effective alternative to the current egg- and cell-culture based vaccine technologies.

    Modular murine polyomavirus VLPs targeting several infectious diseases including Influenza, Group A Streptococcus, and in particular Rotavirus, are currently under investigation. Rotavirus infections are responsible for more than 500,000 annual deaths of children worldwide, and are most prevalent in developing countries where financial and logistical challenges prevent the use of more costly vaccines.  Microbial production of modular VLPs presenting Rotavirus antigen peptides and proteins on the surface can address these challenges and provide a vaccine more suitable for the developing world.

    Research on modular VLPs involves vaccine design, bioprocessing, and formulation. Vaccine design explores strategic and structural presentation of antigenic modules. Vaccine bioprocessing explores protein expression, purification, characterisation and process optimisation. Vaccine formulation explores excipients for improved stability and adjuvant formulation for improved immune response.  This research aims to advance a VLP vaccine platform which can address cost, speed, and safety concerns of current vaccine technology, and deliver vaccines suitable for a developing world.
     

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Natalie Connors
    Research group Middelberg Group
    Contact email n.connors@uq.edu.au

     

    Vaccine, Virus-like particle, Rotavirus, Synthetic biology, Nanotechnology, Microbial platform, VLP, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Sustainability
  • Bioinspired nanomaterials for controlled release

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Sustainability, Nanocapsules, Bio-inspired silicification, Biomineralization, Emulsions, Peptides, Silica particles

    Project summary

    Engineered nanomaterials have attracted significant research interest during the past decades for various applications. While compared to man-made materials, precision nanomaterials inspired by nature promise to revolutionize many sectors including photonics, coatings, healthcare because of their sophisticated structure. Biocompatible silica nanocapsules were developed in our lab using a patented technology - the emulsion and biomimetic dual-templating platform technology. This technology is based on the novel design of bifunctional peptides or proteins (acting as not only biosurfactants but also biomineralizing agents) by modularizing a partial sequence encoding surface activity with a series of amino acids having biosilicification ability. Oil-core silica nanocapsules were produced under mild conditions, including room temperature, neutral pH and without use of any toxic chemicals. We also demonstrated the facile loading of actives by directly dissolving them in the oil phase, followed by emulsification and biosilicification. Slow release of hydrophobic ingredients encapsulated in the oil phase can be controlled by tuning the shell thickness of the silica nanocapsules. This technology opens a new facile and environmentally friendly strategy for fabricating capsules for applications in biomedical and agricultural domains, such as slow release of active components, drug delivery with sustained release, etc. Projects are available for making various nanomaterials built upon this novel technology for slow release and triggered release of active components in biomedical and agriculture applications.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Chun-Xia Zhao
    Research group Centre for Biomolecular Engineering
    Contact email z.chunxia@uq.edu.au

     

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Sustainability
  • Blood cell production

    Project keywords

    Cell and Tissue Engineering, Systems Biology, Systems Biotechnology, Manufacturing, Health, Blood, Cancer, Stem Cells

    Project summary

    Millions of people are saved every year through the transfusion of blood products. Supported by the generosity of donors, transfussion of blood products demonstrate that inexpensive, generic cell therapies are possible. However, some blood cells are difficult to obtain from donors and this project develops bioprocesses suitable for routine clinical scale manufacture of blood cells from haematopoietic progenitor cells (HPC).

    Ex vivo manufacture of neutrophils

    Many anti-cancer drugs are so toxic that the body's blood generating tissues are severely damaged. When this happens, the number of infection fighting neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) can become so low that life-threatening fungal and bacterial infections occur. This condition is known as neutropaenia, and is a major cause of chemotherapy associated morbidity and mortality. By manufacturing neutrophils ex vivo, and giving these to chemotherapy patients, it may be possible to prevent neutropaenia and associated infections.

    Dose-intensive chemotherapy results in an obligatory period of neutropaenia (less than 0.1 x 109 neutrophils/L of whole blood), during which patients are at high risk of infection. While transfusion support with donor neutrophils appears to be an obvious solution to the problem (analogous to red blood cell and platelet transfusions for anaemia and thrombocytopaenia), obtaining sufficiently large numbers of neutrophils for efficacious dosing is challenging. The limited number of neutrophils that can be obtained from a single donor, combined with an inability to store neutrophil collections, results in a single dose/donation situation at best. Neutrophil transfusion is practised in only a few specialist centres around the world, and only in a therapeutic setting. Ideally, neutrophils should be provided as infection prophylaxis to all patients undergoing chemotherapy associated with severe neutropaenia.

    Several research groups have trialed the administration of ex vivo expanded haematopoietic progenitor cells in an attempt to accelerate recovery of endogenous neutrophil production. While clinical benefit was obtained, this approach does not address the imbalance between supply and demand. Precursor cells retain the ability to differentiate into a variety blood cell types, some of which are linked to immunological rejection and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). As such these products can only be used in an autologous setting, or for recipients that are immunologically matched and receiving immunosuppressive treatments. Thus, a single HPC donation can provide only a single dose of transfusable precursor cells.

    In a combination of the two approaches described above (transfusion of donor derived neutrophils and ex vivo expansion), we have developed a bioprocess for ex vivo production of a mature neutrophil product. A readily available supply of neutrophils could enable routine administration as infection prophylaxis in chemotherapy patients. Routine production of neutrophils for clinical use depends on the availability of cultivation system capable of operating at 10’s to 100’s of litres. By screening multiple culture parameters, we developed and optimized a process allowing us to conduct multi litre neutrophil cultures in Wave bioreactors. We are able to obtain cell yields equivalent to as many 20 – 40 doses of neutrophils from a single HPC donation. The process itself is amenable to routine production of a therapeutic product and has been demonstrated at volumes up to 10 L. This is the first ever demonstration of clinical scale manufacture of neutrophils from HPC. The process is currently undergoing pre-clinical evaluation at the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) in Toronto.

    High efficiency generation of RBC from HPC

    Increasing demand for transfusable red blood cells is paralleled by increasingly stringent donor exclusion criteria and prevalence of blood borne disease, placing pressures on global blood supply. Logistical considerations and donor distribution further hinder supply, with only 45% of whole blood donations collected in regions accounting for 80% of world population. It has been proposed for some time that ex vivo manufactured RBC could provide a secure and safe alternative to donor RBC. While in principle this is true, the numbers of cells that are required to have any significant impact are extremely large. A number of processes have been developed for the generation of RBC from umbilical cord blood derived HPC, but the methods used yield only several transfusion units per donation at best, and are not well suited to routine manufacture. In order to have any meaningful impact on global blood supply, it would be necessary to generate several hundreds of units of RBC from a single umbilical cord blood donation.

    We are developing high efficiency culture methods for production of very large numbers of RBC from umbilical blood derived HPC. We have developed a culture process capable of generating over 200 RBC units/donation. In conjunction with the development of advanced bioprocess technologies, these methods could enable large scale manufacture of RBC. While it will be many years before we see ex vivo manufactured RBC replacing routine donor blood transfusion used in the clinic, development of a high yield process may find application in the supply of rare blood types.

    Publications

    Schwaber JL, Brunck ME, Levesque JP, Nielsen LK (2016) Filling the void: allogeneic myeloid cells for transplantation. Current Opinion in Hematology 23: 72-7. PMID: 26554894

    Clark MB, Mercer TR, Bussotti G, Leonardi T, Haynes KR, Crawford J, Brunck ME, Cao KAL, Thomas GP, Chen WY, Taft RJ, Nielsen LK, Enright AJ, Mattick JS, Dinger ME (2015) Quantitative gene profiling of long noncoding RNAs with targeted RNA sequencing. Nature Methods 12: 339-342. PMID: 25751143

    Mercer TR, Clark MB, Andersen SB, Brunck ME, Haerty W, Crawford J, Taft RJ, Nielsen LK, Dinger ME, Mattick JS (2015) Genome-wide discovery of human splicing branchpoints. Genome Res 25: 290-303. PMID: 25561518

    Brunck MEG, Andersen SB, Timmins NE, Osborne GW, Nielsen LK (2014) Absolute counting of neutrophils in whole blood using flow cytometry. Cytometry 85: 1057-64. PMID: 24995861.

    Brunck MEG, Nielsen LK (2014) Next generation cell therapies to prevent infections in neutropenic patients. Stem cells translational medicine 3: 541-548. PMID: 24598780

    Peatey CL, Watson JA, Trenholme KR, Brown CL, Nielsen LK, Guenther M, Timmins NE, Watson GS, Gardiner DL (2013) Enhanced gametocyte formation in erythrocyte progenitor cells: a site specific adaptation by Plasmodium falciparum. J Infect Dis 208: 1170-1174. PMID: 23847056

    Doran M, Aird I, Marturana F, Timmins NE, Atkinson K, Nielsen LK (2012) Bioreactor for Blood Production. Cell Transplantation 21: 1235-1244. PMID: 22405378

    Timmins NE, Nielsen LK (2012) Large scale manufacture of blood cells. In N. Jenkins, N Barron, PM Alves (Ed.) Proceedings of the 21st Annual Meeting of the European Society for Animal Cell Technology (ESACT), Dublin, Ireland, June 7-10, 2009 (pp. 557-571) Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

    Timmins NE, Athanasas S, G?nther M, Buntine P, Nielsen LK (2011) Ultra high yield manufacture of red blood cells from hematopoietic stem cells. Tissue Engineering, Part C 17: 1131-7. PMID: 21736478.

    Timmins NE, Nielsen LK (2011) Manufactured RBC - rivers of blood, or an oasis in the desert? Biotechnology Advances 29: 661-6. PMID: 21609758.

    Marturana F, Timmins NE, Nielsen LK (2011) Short term exposure of umbilical cord blood CD34+ cells to GM-CSF early in culture improves ex vivo expansion of neutrophils. Cytotherapy 13: 366-77. PMID: 20860426.

    Osiecki M, Ghanavi P, Atkinson K, Nielsen LK, Doran M (2010) The Ascorbic Acid Paradox. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 400: 466-470. PMID: 20732307

    Doran MR, Markway B, Clark A, Athanasas-Platsis S, Brooke G, Atkinson K, Nielsen LK, Cooper-White JJ (2010) Membrane Bioreactors Enhance Microenvironmental Conditioning and Tissue Development. Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods. 16:407-415. PMID: 19622005.

    Timmins NE, Palfreyman E, Marturana F, Dietmair S, Luikenga S, Lopez G, Fung YL, Minchinton R, Nielsen LK (2009) Clinical Scale Ex vivo Manufacture of Neutrophils from Hematopoietic Progenitor Cells. Biotechnol Bioeng 104:832-40. PMID: 19591208.

    Timmins NE, Nielsen LK (2009) Blood cell manufacture: current methods and future challenges. Trends Biotechnol 27:415-422. PMID: 19500866.

    Doran MR, Markway BD, Aird IA, Rowlands AS, George PA, Nielsen LK, Cooper-White JJ (2009) Surface-bound stem cell factor and the promotion of hematopoietic cell expansion. Biomaterials 30:4047-52. PMID: 19481255.

    Hines M, Nielsen LK, Cooper-White J (2008) The hematopoietic stem cell niche: what are we trying to replicate? Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology 83: 421-443. doi: 10.1002/jctb.1856

    Peng JC, Hyde C, Pai S, O’Sullivan BJ, Nielsen LK, Thomas R (2006) Monocyte-derived DC primed with TLR agonists secrete IL-12p70 in a CD40-dependent manner under hyperthermic conditions. Journal of Immunotherapy 29:606-615.

    Peng JC, Abu Bakar S, Richardson MM, Jonsson JJ, Frazer IH, Nielsen LK, Morahan G, Thomas R (2006) IL10 and IL12B polymorphisms each influence IL-12p70 secretion by dendritic cells in response to LPS. Immunology and Cell Biology 84: 227-232. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1711.2006.01419.x

    Peng JC, Thomas R, Nielsen LK (2005) Generation and maturation of DC for clinical application under serum-free conditions. Journal of Immunotherapy 28:599-609.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Lars Nielsen
    Research group AIBN Systems & Synthetic Biology
    Contact email lars.nielsen@uq.edu.au

     

    Production of blood cells from haematopoietic stem cells
  • Brain organoids for modeling human neuropathogensis.

    Project keywords

    iPSC, optogenetics, neuronal connectivity, neurons, differentiation, Ageing, organoids, CRISPR

    Project summary

    In this project variously functionlised hydrogels as well as conventional stirred bioreactors will be used to generate brain organoids from control, neurological disease and artificially aged human iPSC. Various optogenetic tools as well as reporter gene technology will be deployed to interrogate neuronal  connectivity and the gene regulatory networks that underlie disease and ageing. 

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Ernst Wolvetang
    Research group Stem Cell Engineering Group
    Contact email e.wolvetang@uq.edu.au

     

    Project keywords iPSC, optogenetics, neuronal connectivity, neurons, differentiation, Ageing, organoids, CRISPR Project summary In this project variously functionlised hydrogels as well as conventional stirred bioreactors...
  • Cardiac repair through direct reprogramming

    Project keywords

    Cell and tissue engineering, health, cardiac tissue, regenerative medicine, cellular reprogramming, delivery

    Project summary

    Advancements in our ability to reprogram somatic cells from one cell type into another through the delivery of a defined set of factors or genetic material have led to a recent breakthrough in terms of reprogramming cardiac fibroblast cells into cardiomyocytes, in mice (in vitro and in vivo) and most recently, human cells (in vitro). These exciting discoveries offer significant potential in the future to repair damaged heart tissue post an acute myocardial infarct (AMI). However, the realisation of this potential is at present limited by 1.) the current use of delivery vehicles that are unable to be clinically translated (such a lentiviruses), and 2.) by the lack of capacity to rapidly screen genetic material for optimised and efficient direct reprogramming outcomes (current efficiencies are around 20%).

    This project will address the first limitation to this becoming a therapeutic option for heart attack victims, through the development of tailored, cell-specific delivery vehicles designed for clinical translation and uptake. These delivery vehicles will be validated firstly using adult mouse heart cells (in vitro) and AMI models (in vivo) and thereafter, using human (iPSC-derived) heart tissue (in vitro). This project will be performed in collaboration with Associate Professor Ernst Wolvetang (AIBN) and Dr Enzo Porrello (School of Biomedical Sciences).

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Justin Cooper-White
    Research group Cooper-White Group
    Contact email j.cooperwhite@uq.edu.au
    Cell and tissue engineering, health, cardiac tissue, regenerative medicine, cellular reprogramming, delivery
  • Cell-selective delivery of preventative and therapeutic nanomedicines using tailorable nanoemulsions

    Project keywords

    Nanoemulsion, Drug delivery, Targeted therapy, Vaccine, Encapsulation, Biomolecular engineerng, Nanobitechnology, Green chemistry, Cancer, Infectious disease, Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health

    Project summary

    The Middelberg group has recently invented a breakthrough Australian nanomedicine platform.  The technology enables the encapsulation of oil- and water-soluble molecules and their highly specific delivery to target cells in vivo. These tailorable nano-sized emulsions consist of nano-scale droplets of pharmaceutical-grade oil that may be loaded with various bio-active cargos, ranging from small molecules to hydrophobic peptides to whole protein antigens. The droplets are stabilised by an award-winning peptide surfactant technology at the oil-water interface, which simultaneously prevents droplet aggregation and allows for facile modification to the external surface. Through genetic or chemical linkage to a related protein surfactant, selected molecules like a cell-specific antibody, or immune-evading polyethylene glycol (PEG), will spontaneously self-assemble at the oil-water interface in a controllable manner.

    This approach brings molecular recognition and targeting capability to emulsion–based delivery. Emulsions are widely used in both pharmaceutical and cosmetic formulations, are ideal for delivering hydrophobic compounds and have a safe history. Adding tuneable cell-selective targeting to nano-sized emulsions opens numerous opportunities for new treatment modalities in areas like oncology, where more efficient targeted therapies are sorely needed; and autoimmune disease, where specific targeting of self-antigens to receptor-defined sub-populations holds great potential. Moreover, the possibility of antigen presentation and selective delivery to specialised antigen presenting cells warrants exploration of this technology for the design of next-generation prophylactics.
     

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Frank Sainsbury
    Research group Middelberg Group
    Contact email f.sainsbury@uq.edu.au

     

    Nanoemulsion, Drug delivery, Targeted therapy, Vaccine, Encapsulation, Biomolecular engineerng, Nanobitechnology, Green chemistry, Cancer, Infectious disease, Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health
  • Computational Bioengineering for Vaccines and Nanoemulsions

    Project keywords

    Computational, Bioengineering, Virus-like particle, Molecular Dynamics, Antigen, Homology Modelling, Biosurfactant, Structure Prediction, Epitope, Nanoemulsion, Nanobiotechnology, Health

    Project summary

    The Computational Bioengineering theme within the Centre for Biomolecular Engineering (CBE) is lead by Dr Natalie Connors.  This group’s research focuses on prediction, design, and fundamental understanding of peptides and proteins to complement experimental investigations within the Vaccine Engineering and Tailorable Nanoemulsions themes within CBE.

    Bioinformatics, computational modelling and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations enable the atomic-scale modelling of bioengineered modular virus-like particles (VLPs) and modular capsomeres which present epitopes of infectious and chronic diseases, such as Influenza, Group A Streptococcus, and Rotavirus.  Translation of the epitope antigen into an immunogenic vaccine largely depends on the structural conformation of the antigen once inserted into the modular capsomere or VLP.  Without native structural presentation, appropriate immunogenic response to the target pathogen is unlikely.  These computational tools allow us to predict, design, and understand the structural properties of vaccine subunits and the modularised epitopes, enabling the development of efficacious modular capsomere and VLP vaccines.

    MD simulation is also utilised to gain fundamental understanding of the behaviour of functional biosurfactant peptides an atomic level.  The behaviour of this class of four-helix bundled biosurfactants, and their resulting nanoemulsions, has been experimentally characterised, however experiments are unable to provide the detail required to understand the interactions at the molecular level.  MD simulation enables atomic-scale calculation of the dynamics of the biosurfactant peptides in a given system, which will enable informed design for specific function.

    The convergence of computational science and experimental science has proven to be a major driving force in the advancement of all areas of scientific research; this project furthers this advance towards bioengineered vaccines, and tailorable nanoemulsions.
     

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Natalie Connors
    Research group Middelberg Group
    Contact email n.connors@uq.edu.au

     

    Computational, Bioengineering, Virus-like particle, Molecular Dynamics, Antigen, Homology Modelling, Biosurfactant, Structure Prediction, Epitope, Nanoemulsion, Nanobiotechnology, Health
  • Computational Studies of Nanomaterials for Clean Energy Applications

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Materials, Manufacturing, Energy, Sustainability, Computational Materials Science, Computational Quantum Chemistry, Carbon dioxide sequestration, Composite Materials, Hydrogen Storage and production, Lithium ion batteries

    Project summary

    Development of new materials drives innovative developments for a wide range of applications. Computational chemistry can provide an efficient means of testing new materials, as well as enabling an understanding of the fundamental science that underlies the processes being studied.  We are currently particularly interested in using computational atomic level calculations to assist in the development of new materials for clean energy technologies, with projects on carbon capture and release, hydrogen storage and production and new materials for battery technologies such as lithium ion batteries.

    The level of CO2 in the atmosphere and which is continuing to be produced is a major environmental concern.  Although CO2 can be effectively captured on various materials, the ability to then release it from those materials for processing or storage is problematic.  Our recent work has demonstrated that by changing the charge on a BN nanomaterials, carbon dioxide can be adsorbed and released. This approach might be useful for other materials and provides an alternative approach to CO2 capture and release.

    We are also carrying out various studies on the capture and production of H2, due to it potential as a clean fuel. Carbon materials and nanoparticles bonded to carbon materials have been shown to provide a catalytic effect for the enhancement of hydrogen evolution. These studies have involved density function al theory calculations of the nanoparticles on the surfaces, as well as explored potential reaction pathways for the release of H2.

    Calculations on diffusion of lithium in lithium ion batteries have also been directed to the identification of novel new materials for better performance of these batteries.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Debra Bernhardt
    Research group Bernhardt Group
    Contact email d.bernhardt@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Materials, Manufacturing, Energy, Sustainability, Computational Materials Science, Computational Quantum Chemistry, Carbon dioxide sequestration, Composite Materials, Hydrogen Storage and production, Lithium ion batteries
  • Controlling the structure of thin polymer films for nanolithography

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Health, Photolithography, Thin films, Polymer physical chemistry

    Project summary

    The manufacture of integrated circuits involves the transfer of a pattern, which ultimately gives function, to a silicon wafer through a process called photolithography. The photolithographic step involves the exposure of a thin polymer film to high-energy photons which initiate a chemical change in the polymer and thereby changes its solubility during a subsequent washing step. In this way a part of the underlying material is exposed and available for etching and metal deposition. This complex process relies critically on the performance of the thin polymer film, called the photoresist, or simply the resist. The photoresists are complex polymers containing up to four different components which impart different but crucial properties to the resists. At the moment the integrated circuit manufacture industry is faced with a major challenge in understanding the structure of these polymers and how they behave when in the form of very thin films. At these dimensions the polymers have properties very different from the bulk-scale materials.  The aim of this project is to understand how complex polymers behave as thin films and how this affects the performance of the photoresists. Training will be provided in polymer chemistry, nano-characterisation and advanced lithography. This important project has potential to impact on the manufacture of the next generation of computer chips.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Andrew Whittaker
    Research group Whittaker Group
    Contact email a.whittaker@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Health, Photolithography, Thin films, Polymer physical chemistry
  • Designing new layered materials for sunlight driven photocatalysis

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Energy, Photocatalysts, Solar energy, Hydrogen production, Water purification, Self-cleaning coating

    Project summary

    This research program aims to develop new classes of layered metal oxides as efficient visible-light photocatalysts. The project will establish a fundamental understanding of the relationships between the synthesis, modification, structure, and ultimately the solar-driven catalytic performance of new material systems. The expected advances in materials and solar energy conversion technology will have applications in water purification, self-cleaning/anti-reflective coatings, and viable hydrogen generation process.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Lianzhou Wang
    Research group Nanomac
    Contact email l.wang@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Energy, Photocatalysts, Solar energy, Hydrogen production, Water purification, Self-cleaning coating
  • Development of adjuvant-combined vaccines for enhanced humoral and cellular immune responses

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, nanobiotechnology, health, vaccine, combination, adjuvants, Th1 and Th2, nanoparticle, dendritic cells, immune response, cytokines

    Project summary

    Current vaccines can prevent many infectious diseases but are ineffective against cancers and diseases such as malaria and HIV. This project will use a novel nanoparticle vaccine delivery platform to regulate the function of dendritic cells (DCs), a key player for immune responses. Antigens and adjuvants that boost the immune response (such as CpG, polyI:C, LPS) and siRNAs will be assembled onto layered double hydroxide (LDH) nanoparticles and their effects on DC-mediated T cell activation will be investigated. This project will help develop more efficient adjuvant combinations to enhance immune responses, enabling the design of new generation vaccines.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Associate Professor Zhi Ping (Gordon) Xu
    Research group Nanomac
    Contact email gordonxu@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Vaccine, Combination, Adjuvants, Th1 and Th2, Nanoparticle, Dendritic cells, Immune response, Cytokines
  • Development of multimodal polymeric imaging agents for enhanced preclinical imaging of disease

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Nanomedicine, Molecular imaging, Magnetic resonance imaging, Positron Emission Tomography, Fluorescence imaging, Nanotechnology, Polymer

    Project summary

    Molecular imaging follows biological processes in living subjects by utilising one of a variety of available techniques. Molecular imaging agents can be designed for various functions: to diagnose and differentiate diseased tissue from normal tissue; to provide information on a disease state (prognosis); and ultimately to monitor the effect of a treatment. Multi-modal imaging agents provide unique opportunities to probe disease states in vivo. The development of polymeric molecular imaging agents that combine high resolution capabilities (for example, that afforded by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with other more sensitive techniques, leads to significant possibilities for increasing our understanding of biological processes in live animals. To fully utilise this capability, this project explores the development of advanced architectural polymers that facilitates probing of disease states using various complementary imaging modalities such as positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), x-ray and computed tomography (CT) and optical imaging.

    Project contacts 

    Lead investigator Dr Kristofer Thurecht
    Research group Whittaker Group
    Contact email k.thurecht@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Nanomedicine, Molecular imaging, Magnetic resonance imaging, Positron Emission Tomography, Fluorescence imaging, Nanotechnology, Polymer
  • DNA Devices for Early Breast Cancer Detection

    Project keywords

    DNA methylation, Epigenetics, Surface Plasmon Resonance, Electrochemistry

    Project summary

    Every 3 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite the increasing incidence of breast cancer in the Western world, death rates have been decreasing since 1990. This is the result of treatment advances, increased awareness and early detection. It is widely accepted that early detection results in much higher survival rates, but it is proving difficult to detect the cancer in its early stages. In this project, we aim to develop a simple device for the early detection of breast cancer by monitoring changes on DNA methylation biomarkers. Detection approach is based on gold-DNA affinity interactions, which provide a new capability of detecting DNA methylation by simply monitoring the relative adsorption of DNA samples derived from breast cancer cells onto a gold substrate. The Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) or electrochemical readouts will be used.  

    This interdisciplinary project will provide an opportunity for students to acquire diverse skills in chemistry, molecular biology and bioengineering.

    (For details see Anal. Chem. 2014 86, 10179-10185; Chem. Commun. 2014, 50, 13153-13156; Analyst,2014, 139, 6178-6184)

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr. Laura G. Carrascosa  Dr Muhammad J. A. Shiddiky Prof Matt Trau
    Research group Trau Group
    Contact email lgcarrascosa@uq.edu.au , m.shiddiky@uq.edu.au . m.trau@uq.edu.au

     

    DNA methylation, Epigenetics, Surface Plasmon Resonance, Electrochemistry
  • DNA Nanomachinery for Early Breast Cancer Detection

    Project keywords

    non-coding (nc) RNAs, DNA nanomachinery, Surface Plasmon Resonance, Electrochemistry

    Project summary

    Subsets of non-coding (nc) RNAs serve as potential biomarkers of diseases. Our group is designing, developing and evaluating novel DNA nanomachinery to perform tasks that are currently beyond the reach of existing molecular readout technologies. In this project, we aim to use these nanomachines as a new technology platform to rapidly detect ncRNA biomarkers in samples derived from breast cancer patients using electrochemical or optical read-outs. This interdisciplinary project will provide an opportunity for students to acquire diverse skills in chemistry, molecular biology and bioengineering.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr. Laura G. CarrascosaProf Matt Trau
    Research group Trau Group                                            
    Contact email lgcarrascosa@uq.edu.au; m.trau@uq.edu.au

     

    non-coding (nc) RNAs, DNA nanomachinery, Surface Plasmon Resonance, Electrochemistry
  • Electrochemical Multiplexed Devices for Cancer Biomarker Analysis

    Project keywords

    Microfabricated devices, Multiplexed detection,  High-throughput analysis, Electrochemistry

    Project summary

    Microfabricated device coupled with electrochemical detection has become an enabling technology for point-of-care and personalized diagnostics due to its capabilities of simplicity, portability, low cost and their performance of multiplexed and quantitative measurements, ideally in a high-troughput format.

    In this project, we aim to fabricate multiplexed devices containing microelectrodes with different planar and three-dimensional (3D) geometries, which integrates all these capabilities in one device. These devices will be tested to analyze different molecular biomarkers (i.e, DNA, microRNA, proteins, etc) in biological/clinical samples.  

    Students will achieve hands on experience in the design, fabrication and application of the microfluidic devices and electrochemical microbiosensors.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Muhammad J. A. Shiddiky; Prof Matt Trau    
    Research group Trau Group
    Contact email m.shiddiky@uq.edu.au; m.trau@uq.edu.au
    Microfabricated devices, Multiplexed detection, High-throughput analysis, Electrochemistry
  • Fluctuations in Nanoscale systems

    Project keywords

    Nonequilibirum systems, Fluctuations, Free energy calculations, Solubility, Phase changes, Properties of nanoscale systems, Transport processes, Jarzynski Equality Fluctuation Relations, Nanomaterials, Manufacturing, Materials, Nanobiotechnology

    Project summary

    Fluctuations become very significant as system sizes decrease, and therefore are important in understanding the properties and behaviour or nanoscale systems. Observation of the distribution of fluctuations can also be used to measure properties of systems that are difficult to determine in other ways.

    This project involves use of fundamental science to develop new relationships applicable to small systems. We have developed new statistical mechanical relationships that are applicable near and far from equilibrium that both characterise the fluctuations and can be used to derive exact relationships in nonequilibrium thermodynamics.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Debra Bernhardt
    Research group Bernhardt Group
    Contact email d.bernhardt@uq.edu.au
    Nonequilibirum systems, Fluctuations, Free energy calculations, Solubility, Phase changes, Properties of nanoscale systems, Transport processes, Jarzynski Equality Fluctuation Relations, Nanomaterials, Materials, Manufacturing, Nanobiotechnology
  • Functional emulsions based on peptides and proteins

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Sustainability, Proteins, Emulsions, Peptides, Biocompatibility, Surfactants

    Project summary

    Emulsions are ubiquitous across industries as diverse as food, personal care, textile and oil recovery. Increasing interest in emulsions has been directed to deliver systems because of a growing library of lipophilic active ingredients. Our group has led the way internationally in developing new stimuli-responsive foam/emulsion-control technology, relying on peptides or proteins that self-assemble at the air-water or oil-water interface to create a network that can be switched on or off by a pH trigger. Protein or peptide-based biosurfactants offer process and design advantages such as ‘switchability’ and ‘tailorability’, for example tailorable nanoemulsions for drug and vaccine delivery. We also developed a simple and scalable method to produce protein surfactants. This technology can be extended for other valuable proteins, as well as for fusions of this protein with other valuable peptides or proteins for example antimicrobial peptides. A range of projects are available for developing functional emulsions for various applications such as cosmetics, early diagnosis and drug delivery.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Chun-Xia Zhao
    Research group Centre for Biomolecular Engineering
    Contact email z.chunxia@uq.edu.au

     

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Sustainability
  • High throughput (HTP) genetic material screening for efficient direct reprogramming

    Project keywords

    Cell and tissue engineering, health, HTP screening, regenerative medicine, cellular reprogramming, cardiac tissue

    Project summary

    Advancements in our ability to reprogram somatic cells from one cell type into another through the delivery of a defined set of factors or genetic material have led to a recent breakthrough in terms of reprogramming cardiac fibroblast cells into cardiomyocytes, in mice (in vitro and in vivo) and most recently, human cells (in vitro). These exciting discoveries offer significant potential in the future to repair damaged heart tissue post an acute myocardial infarct (AMI). However, the realisation of this potential is at present limited by 1.) the current use of delivery vehicles that are unable to be clinically translated (such a lentiviruses), and 2.) by the lack of capacity to rapidly screen genetic material for optimised and efficient direct reprogramming outcomes (current efficiencies are around 20%).

    This project will address the second limitation to this becoming a therapeutic option for heart attack victims, through the use of a recently developed microfluidic cell-based device platform that enables high throughput screening of soluble factors and high content analysis of their impacts on cell behaviours. This project will screen a panel of genetic material factors and nanoparticle delivery vehicles, in terms of their efficacy in direct reprogramming of adult mouse heart cells and thereafter, human (iPSC-derived) heart cells, leading to the development of optimal factor formulations for efficient and targeted direct reprogramming for heart tissue repair. This project will be performed in collaboration with Associate Professor Ernst Wolvetang (AIBN) and Dr Enzo Porrello (School of Biomedical Sciences).

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Justin Cooper-White
    Research group Cooper-White Group
    Contact email j.cooperwhite@uq.edu.au
    Cell and tissue engineering, health, HTP screening, regenerative medicine, cellular reprogramming, cardiac tissue
  • Human Pluripotent Stem Cells: the use of polymers for 3D Cell Culture

    Project keywords

    pluripotent stem cells, 3D tissue culture, thermoresponsive polymer, extracellular matrix, directed differentiation

    Project summary

    Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC) possess the unique ability to form all cell types. There are two categories of hPSC: human embryonic stem cells (hESC; derived from embryos) and human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC; created through forced reprogramming of somatic cells). The promise of pluripotent stem cells as an instrument to study early embryonic development, for drug discovery and toxicology testing, or as a treatment for degenerative diseases has caused much anticipation over the last 15 years. While FDA approval has been given for clinical testing of hPSC (macular degenerative diseases and type-1 diabetes) key issues remain - including the development of xeno-free cultures and the discontinuation of current passaging methods (enzymatic and non-enzymatic).
    The Pluripotent Stem Cell Group are currently developing robust techniques for the large scale culture of hPSC as three dimensional aggregates, maintaining their pluripotent status, and without the need for enzymatic/non-enzymatic passaging. Using a thermoresponsive polymer conjugated to an extracellular matrix protein, aggregates can be formed and dissociated in response to regulation of temperature. In addition, we are investigating methods to differentiate and maintain progenitor cells (cardiac and neuronal), derived from hPSC, in a 3D platform. Proteomic approaches are also being used to gain insight into the growth and development of the cells, as well as their interactions with their environment, thus enabling the development of a culture platform, capable of large scale production of quality hPSCs suitable for drug screening, study of diseases and regenerative therapies.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Linda Harkness
    Research group Gray  Group                                            
    Contact email l.harkness@uq.edu.au

     

    pluripotent stem cells, 3D tissue culture, thermoresponsive polymer, extracellular matrix, directed differentiation
  • Improving clostridial toxoid production through molecular fermentation maps

    Project keywords

    Systems Biology, Health, Manufacturing, Toxoid, Clostridia, Livestock, Vaccine, Proteomics, Metabolomics, Transcriptomics

    Project summary

    Toxoid vaccines are used routinely in the livestock industry to prevent animal-disease caused by pathogenic clostridia. Vaccines are produced using batch fermentation processes, which have undergone limited optimization over the past five decades. Low titres and frequent batch failures greatly affect capital utilization and represent a significant cost factor. This project uses high-throughput chemistry (omics) to produce ‘molecular maps of fermentation’, which will be used to design a new generation of superior fermentation processes. Achieving the aims will be of direct relevance to diagnose causes of batch failure (e.g., raw material failures) and engineer productive, high density fermentation for the production of toxins use in vaccine formulation to prevent multiple animal diseases.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Esteban Marcellin, Professor Lars Nielsen
    Research group AIBN Systems & Synthetic Biology
    Contact email e.marcellin@uq.edu.au
    Project keywords Systems Biology, Health, Manufacturing, Toxoid, Clostridia, Livestock, Vaccine, Proteomics, Metabolomics, Transcriptomics Project summary Toxoid vaccines are used routinely in the livestock industry to pr...
  • Is Down syndrome a neurocristopathy?

    Project keywords

    Cell and Tissue Engineering, Health, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), Stem Cell, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Neuromuscular junction

    Project summary

    A neural crest defect could explain many of the pathologies associated with Down syndrome (DS), such as craniofacial defects, tooth abnormalities, cardiac cushion defects and hirshprung disease. Gene expression analysis of  DS iPSC derived neural cell types reveals gene expression differences that are consistent with this hypothesis. Neural tube formation and neural crest behavior can be readily modeled with iPSC in vitro and neural crest migration can be readily modeled in vitro in microdevices and in vivo transplant experiments in the chick.  In this project we aim to perform genome editing of chromosome 21 in DS iPSC and use overexpression approaches in euploid cells to elucidate the gene regulatory networks that govern altered neural crest behavior. This project will further involve the development of SOX10 reporter iPSCs to allow neural crest cell purification. Connecting DS disease phenotypes with altered neural crest behavior may allow early developmental intervention and improvement of health outcomes for people with DS.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Associate Professor Ernst Wolvetang
    Research group Wolvetang Group
    Contact email e.wolvetang@uq.edu.au

     

    Cell and Tissue Engineering, Health, iPSC, Stem Cell, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Neuromuscular junction
  • Isoprenoid Biofuels and Industrial Biochemicals

    Project keywords

    Systems Biology, Systems Biotechnology, Energy, Materials, Manufacturing, Sustainability, Sucrose, Renewable, Isoprenoids, Synthetic biology, Metabolic engineering

    Project summary

    Isoprenoids are a very large class of natural products. Their chemical and structural diversity lends them to a wide variety of industrial applications (e.g. as pharmaceuticals, fuels, rubbers, nutraceuticals, agricultural chemicals, flavours, fragrances, colorants, etc.). We are interested in several industrially-useful isoprenoids. Examples include isoprene, a C5 hydrocarbon that can be polymerised to make synthetic rubber, and various C10 (monoterpene) and C15 (sesquiterpene) hydrocarbons that can be used to produce bio-jet fuel/bio-diesel (and in other applications). Production of these compounds is non-trivial, since they are not naturally made by E. coli and yeast, and some, notably the monoterpenes, are highly toxic.

    Isoprenoids are produced by two distinct metabolic pathways: the mevalonate (MVA) pathway present in all higher organisms as well as yeast and the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway found in many microbes and plastids. We are using synthetic biology engineering approaches to improve carbon flux through both of these pathways for production of industrially-useful isoprenoids. The aim of this program is to increase conversion of bioprocess feedstocks (such as sucrose) into desired end products by whole cell biocatalysts. We have reconstructed synthetic pathways with improved flux in both yeast and E. coli. We are also examining approaches to minimise carbon loss to competing pathways, redirect carbon into the pathways, and scavenge carbon lost to nonspecific reactions. 

    Publications

    Bongers M, Chrysanthopoulos PK, Behrendorff JBYH, Hodson MP, Vickers CE, Nielsen LK (2015) Systems analysis of methylerythritol-phosphate pathway flux in E. coli: insights into the role of oxidative stress and the validity of lycopene as an isoprenoid reporter metabolite. Microbial Cell Factories 14: 193. PMID: 26610700

    Brennan TCR, Williams TC, Schulz BL, Palfreyman RW, Krömer JO, Nielsen LK (2015) Evolutionary engineering improves tolerance for replacement jet fuels in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Appl Environ Microbiol 81: 3316 –3325. PMID: 25746998

    Vickers CE, Behrendorff JBYH, Bongers M, Brennan TCR, Bruschi M, Nielsen LK (2015) Production of industrially relevant isoprenoid compounds in engineered microbes. In: Kamm B (ed) Microorganisms in Biorefineries. Series: Microbiology Monographs, vol. 26. Chapter 11: 303-334.

    Vickers CE, Bongers M, Liu Q, Delatte T, Bouwmeester H (2014) Metabolic engineering of volatile isoprenoids in plants and microbes. Plant, Cell and Environment, 37 8: 1753-1775. doi:10.1111/pce.12316

    Brennan TCR, Kroemer JO, Nielsen LK (2013) Physiological and transcriptional response to d-limonene in Saccharomyces cerevisiae shows changes to the cell wall, not the plasma membrane. Appl Env Microbiol 79: 3590-3600. PMID: 23542628

    Behrendorff JBYH, Vickers CE, Chrysanthopoulos P, Nielsen LK (2013) 2,2-Diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl as a screening tool for recombinant monoterpene biosynthesis. Microbial Cell Factories 12:76. PMID: 23968454. PMC3847554

    Brennan TCR, Turner CD, Kroemer JO, Nielsen LK (2012) Alleviating monoterpene toxicity using a two-phase extractive fermentation for the bioproduction of jet fuel mixtures in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Biotechnology & Bioengineering 109: 2513-2522. PMID: 22539043

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Claudia Vickers, Professor Lars Nielsen
    Research group AIBN Systems & Synthetic Biology
    Contact email c.vickers@uq.edu.au
    Project keywords Systems Biology, Systems Biotechnology, Energy, Materials, Manufacturing, Sustainability, Sucrose, Renewable, Isoprenoids, Synthetic biology, Metabolic engineering Project summary Isoprenoids are a very l...
  • Mammalian Systems Biology

    Project keywords

    Cell and Tissue Engineering, Systems Biology, Systems Biotechnology, Manufacturing, Health, CHO, HEK293, MAb, Biofactory, Metabolic engineering

    Project summary

    Mammalian cells are important hosts for the production of a wide range of biopharmaceuticals due to their ability to produce correctly folded and glycosylated proteins. Compared to microbes and yeast, however, the productivity of mammalian cells is low because of their comparatively slow growth rate, tendency to undergo apoptosis, and low production capacities. While much effort has been invested in the engineering of mammalian cells with superior production characteristics, the success of these approaches has been limited to date. One factor responsible for this lack of success is our limited understanding of the cellular basis for high productivity, and of how discrete mechanisms within a cell contribute to the overall phenotype. Aiming to measure and characterize all cellular components at different functional levels, omics technologies have the potential to improve our understanding of mammalian cell physiology, elucidating new targets for the generation of a superior host cell line.

    In the past 5 years, the release of the CHO genome and advances in omics technologies have enabled the generation of high-resolution, high-quality data, which together with advances in mammalian genome engineering tools will greatly change production of high value biopharmaceuticals. 

    Publications

    Song MC, Hou JJ, Nielsen LK, Gray PP (2015) Novel cell engineering of the Unfolded Protein Response to achieve efficient therapeutic protein production cell line. BMC Proceedings 9 (S9):P14. doi:10.1186/1753-6561-9-S9-P14.

    Orellana CA, Marcellin E, Munro T, Gray PP, Nielsen LK (2015) Multi-omics approach for comparative studies of monoclonal antibody producing CHO cells. BMC Proceedings 9 (S9):O8. doi:10.1186/1753-6561-9-S9-O8.

    Martínez VS, Buchsteiner M, Gray P, Nielsen LK, Quek LE (2015) Dynamic Metabolic Flux Analysis using B-splines to study the effects of temperature shift on CHO cell metabolism. Met Eng Comm 2: 46-57.

    Orellana CA, Marcellin E, Schulz BL, Nouwens AS, Gray PP, Nielsen LK (2015) High antibody producing Chinese hamster ovary cells up-regulate intracellular protein transport and glutathione synthesis. J Proteome Res 14: 609–618. PMID: 25495469

    Turner J, Quek LE, Titmarsh D, Krömer JO, Kao LP, Nielsen LK, Wolvetang E, Cooper-White J (2014) Metabolic profiling and flux analysis of MEL-2 human embryonic stem cells during exponential growth at physiological and atmospheric oxygen concentrations. PLoS ONE 9: e112757. PMID: 25412279. Online.

    Fearnley LG, Davis MJ, Ragan MA, Nielsen LK (2014) Extracting Reaction Networks from Databases – Opening Pandora’s Box. Briefings in Bioinformatics 15: 973-983. PMID: 23946492. Online

    Quek LE, Nielsen LK (2014) Steady-State 13C Fluxomics Using OpenFLUX. In: Krömer JO, Nielsen LK, Blank LM (eds) Metabolic Flux Analysis: Methods and Protocols. Series: Methods in Molecular Biology, vol. 1191. Chapter 13: 65-78. PMID: 25178793.

    Quek LE, Nielsen LK (2014) Customization of 13C-MFA Strategy According to Cell Culture System. In: Krömer JO, Nielsen LK, Blank LM (eds) Metabolic Flux Analysis: Methods and Protocols. Series: Methods in Molecular Biology, vol. 1191. Chapter 5: 81-90. PMID: 25178785.

    Martinez VS, Nielsen LK (2014) NExT: Integration of Thermodynamic Constraints and Metabolomics Data into a Metabolic Network. In: Krömer JO, Nielsen LK, Blank LM (eds) Metabolic Flux Analysis: Methods and Protocols. Series: Methods in Molecular Biology, vol. 1191. Chapter 4: 209-224. PMID: 25178784.

    Quek LE, Nielsen LK (2014) A depth-first search algorithm to compute elementary flux modes by linear programming. BMC Systems Biology 8:94. PMID: 25074068. Online.

    Martínez VS, Quek LE, Nielsen LK ( 2014) Network thermodynamic curation of human and yeast genome-scale metabolic models. Biophys J 107:493-503. PMID: 25028891.

    Quek LE, Dietmair S, Hanscho M, Martinez VS, Borth N, Nielsen LK (2014) Reducing Recon 2 for steady-state flux analysis of HEK cell culture. J Biotech 184: 172-178. PMID: 24907410.

    Mercer TR, Clark MB, Crawford J, Brunck ME, Gerhardt D, Taft R, Nielsen LK, Dinger M, Mattick JS (2014) Targeted sequencing for gene discovery and quantification using RNA CaptureSeq. Nat Protoc 9: 989-1009. PMID: 24705597

    Fearnley LG, Ragan MA, Nielsen LK (2014) Towards a Large Integrated Model of Signal Transduction and Gene Regulation Events in Mammalian Cells. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Bioinformatics Models, Methods and Algorithms, pg 117-122.

    Mercer TR, Edwards SL, Clark MB, Neph SJ, Wang H, Stergachis AB, John S, Sandstrom R, Li G, Sandhu KS, Ruan Y, Nielsen LK, Mattick JS, Stamatoyannopoulos JA (2013) DNase I-hypersensitive exons co-localize with promoters and distal regulatory elements. Nature Genetics 45:852-9. PMID: 23793028

    Dietmair S, Hodson MP, Quek L-E, Timmins NE, Gray P, Nielsen LK (2012) A multi-omics analysis of recombinant protein production in Hek293 cells. PLoS ONE 7(8):e43394. PMID: 22937046. PMC3427347

    Fearnley LG, Nielsen LK (2012) PATHLOGIC-S: A scalable Boolean framework for modelling cellular signalling. PLoS ONE 7(8): e41977. PMID: 22879903. PMC3413702

    Martinez VS, Dietmair S, Quek L-E, Hodson MP, Gray P, Nielsen LK (2012) Flux balance analysis of CHO cells before and after a metabolic switch from lactate production to consumption. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 110: 660-666. PMID: 22991240

    Dietmair S, Hodson MP, Quek LE, Timmins NE, Chrysanthopoulos P, Jacob SS, Gray P, Nielsen LK (2012)Metabolite profiling of CHO cells with different growth characteristics. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 109: 1404-1414. PMID: 22407794

    Dietmair S, Timmins NE, Chrysanthopoulos P, Gray PP, Kr?mer JO, Nielsen LK (2012) Metabolomic analysis of CHO cultures with different growth characteristics - Development of a metabolite extraction protocol for suspension adapted mammalian cells In N. Jenkins, N Barron, PM Alves (Ed.) Proceedings of the 21st Annual Meeting of the European Society for Animal Cell Technology (ESACT), Dublin, Ireland, June 7-10, 2009 (pp. 37-41) Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

    Li J, Wijffels G, Yu Y, Nielsen LK, Niemeyer DO, Fisher AD, Ferguson DM, Schirra HJ (2011) Altered Fatty Acid Metabolism in Long Duration Road Transport: An NMR-based Metabonomics Study in Sheep. J Proteome Res. 10: 1073-87. PMID: 21142080.

    Krömer JO, Dietmair S, Jacob SS, Nielsen LK (2011) Quantification of L-alanyl-L-glutamine in mammalian cell culture broth - evaluation of different detectors. Analytical Biochemistry 416:129-31. PMID: 21651886.

    Dietmair S, Nielsen LK, Timmins NE (2010) Engineering a mammalian super producer. Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology 86: 905–914.

    Dietmair S, Timmins NE, Gray PP, Nielsen LK, Krömer JO (2010) Toward quantitative metabolomics of mammalian cells: Development of a metabolite extraction protocol. Analytical Biochemistry 404:155-164. PMID: 20435011.

    Quek L-E, Dietmair S; Krömer JO, Nielsen LK (2010) Metabolic flux analysis in mammalian cell culture. Metabolic Engineering 12: 161-171. PMID: 19833223.

    Quek L-E, Nielsen LK (2009) Metabolic engineering of mammalian cells. In: The Metabolic Pathway Engineering Handbook, ed. CD Smolke. CRC Press. Chapter 26. ISBN 978-1-4398-0296-0.  Publication Date: 28/07/2009.

    Quek L-E, Wittmann C, Nielsen LK, Krömer JO (2009) OpenFLUX: Efficient Modelling Software for 13C-Based Metabolic Flux Analysis. Microbial Cell Factories 8:25. PMID: 19409084.

    Quek L-E, Nielsen LK (2008) On the reconstruction of the Mus musculus genome-scale metabolic network model. Genome Informatics 21:89-100.

    Dinnis DM, Stansfield SH, Schlatter S, Smales CM, Alete D, Birch JR, Racher AJ, Marshall CT, Nielsen LK, James DC (2006) Functional proteomic analysis of GS-NS0 murine myeloma cell lines with varying recombinant monoclonal antibody production rate. Biotechnology and Bioengineering 94: 830-841. DOI 10.1002/bit. 20899

    Sheikh K, Förster J, Nielsen LK (2005) Modeling Hybridoma Cell Metabolism Using a Generic Genome-Scale Metabolic Model of Mus musculus. Biotechnology Progress 21:112-121. DOI: 10.1021/bp0498138

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Lars Nielsen
    Research group AIBN Systems & Synthetic Biology
    Contact email lars.nielsen@uq.edu.au

     

    The aim of this project is to model and analyse mammalian cell metabolism using genome scale models and metabolomics.
  • Manufacturing biopharmaceuticals of the future

    Project keywords

    Cell and Tissue Engineering, Health, Bioproduction, Mammalian cells, Antibodies, Cancer, Process Development, Bioreactors, Stable expression, Transient expression, Biosimilars, Cell Line Engineering

    Project summary

    Complex protein biopharmaceuticals against diseases such as cancer are a highly-valued commodity. This high value comes from both the costs associated with Research & Development as well as the complexities in manufacturing.  Prof Gray's research group at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) continues to provide world leading solutions in the field of cell and tissue engineering for the production of biopharmaceuticals. Novel drug targets will continue to be identified through basic research,  however the manufacturing of the product will become the translational bottleneck of the process because if it cannot be made, it simply cannot be used. Our goal is to connect innovative platforms with engineered cell lines to produce life-saving drugs such as the monoclonal antibodies and fusion proteins to bring down manufacturing costs and allow access to as many as possible. Briefly, the platform technology involves genetic engineering of recombinant genes and transfer of the genetic material into mammalian cells for protein production. The research group also examines the purification and characterisation of the product, in preparation for animal or human trials.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Peter Gray
    Research group Gray Group
    Contact email p.gray1@uq.edu.au
    Cell and Tissue Engineering, Health, Bioproduction, Mammalian cells, Antibodies, Cancer, Process Development, Bioreactors, Stable expression, Transient expression, Biosimilars, Cell Line Engineering
  • Medical diagnostic testing based on needle-free devices applied to the skin

    Project keywords

    Nanobiotechnology, Health, Materials, Diagnostics, Biomaterials, Infectious Disease, Surface chemistry, Protein Expression, Pre-clinical testing, Biomedical engineering, Skin physiology, Biomarker detection, Resource-limited settings

    Project summary

    Sampling and processing of blood for diagnostic tests is a key limitation to disease diagnosis and routine monitoring. Currently available tests usually require lab infrastructure, painful procedures for patients, long waits for results and added costs on strained healthcare budgets. In this project we are developing “Micropatches” – silicon or polymer chips that contain thousands of tiny micro-projections that can breach the skin and selectively capture disease-related proteins and antibodies from the underlying blood vessels and tissue fluid. We are designing these devices to be pain-free, to detect multiple protein/antibody biomarkers in the one test, and to be used in a GP, outpatient clinic, or home setting.

    There are many aspects to this project, requiring a number of skill sets, ranging from microfabrication, surface modification and protein chemistry through to skin biology, immunology and pre-clinical device testing in animal models. We currently have projects available for undergraduate, Honours, MPhil and PhD students from diverse backgrounds (engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology) to tackle different aspects of the project.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Simon Corrie
    Research group Kendall Group
    Contact email s.corrie1@uq.edu.au
    Nanobiotechnology, Health, Materials, Diagnostics, Biomaterials, Infectious Disease, Surface chemistry, Protein Expression, Pre-clinical testing, Biomedical engineering, Skin physiology, Biomarker detection, Resource-limited settings
  • Micro-nanostructures applied to the skin for improved vaccines; and underpinning fundamental science
    Professor Mark Kendall is an internationally recognized leader in fundamental research and applied techniques on needle-free vaccination delivery systems.
     
    A motivation for his work is to advance the field of vaccines through fundamental advances of the underpinning science, and the application of the science to practical, needle-free vaccine delivery systems – with broad utility.
     
    This is achieved with a multi-award winning team of biomedical engineers, chemists, materials scientists, dermatologists immunologists and vaccinologists.
     
    A notable achievement is the invention and proof of concept of the Nanopatch needle-free vaccination patch, leading to Professor Kendall founding Vaxxas Pty Ltd in 2011, with $15 million of investment, to advance the Nanopatch in to clinical utility and to become a product.
     
    The Nanopatch, an ultra-high density array of projections on a patch, precisely targeting vaccine to our abundant immune cell populations within the skin; generating improved immune responses. And dry-coating vaccines to the tips of projections removes the need for vaccine refrigeration during transportation and storage.
     
    However, there are still many fundamental questions to address within the key domains of the Professor Kendall’s group. For example:
     
    Engineering: the mechanical properties of skin and mucosal surface – engaging these tissues mechanically with targeted delivery devices.
    Chemistry: formulation, coating and release of target immunotherapeutics
    Immunology/vaccinology: fundamental immunological interactions, within the local tissue site and also at other locations, and the application of the underpinning mode of action to improved vaccines.
     
    The research group is seeking top-flight scientists and engineers to join the team to further advance or more of these key domains.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Prof Mark Kendall
    Research group Kendall Group
    Contact email a.ewing@uq.edu.au
    Professor Mark Kendall is an internationally recognized leader in fundamental research and applied techniques on needle-free vaccination delivery...
  • Microfluidic platform technology for producing multifunctional nanocarriers for drug delivery

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Health, Nanoparticles, Microfluidics, Drug Delivery

    Project summary

    Multifunctional nanoparticles hold tremendous promise for the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, for example, by incorporating targeting, stimuli-responsive release and imaging functions to achieve targeted delivery, controlled release and real-time diagnosis. They have attracted significant interest and undergone an explosive growth over the last decade in terms of publications, patents and other research activities. However, more functionality requires more synthetic steps, resulting in not only difficulty in reproducibly synthesising nanoparticles having consistent properties, but also low yields and high production cost and high probability of failure during synthesis.

    Microfluidics has attracted significant interest in a wide variety of fields. Its ability to manipulate nanoliter volumes of liquid, control mixing and reaction precisely open up the possibility of creating targeted nanocarriers with uniform size and narrow size distribution. Microfluidic synthesis of nanoparticles offers a number of advantages over traditional "beaker methods", including efficient mixing, enhanced heat and mass transfer, precise control over nucleation and growth processes, and scale-up possibility. These intrinsic properties in combination with the potential for automating multiple processes such as reaction, separation, purification and characterisation in a single microchip make microfluidics attractive as a platform technology for developing a library of nanocarriers with controlled size, shape and surface properties. This project will develop facile one-step microfluidic approaches for synthesising targeted nanocarriers having controlled properties, including particle size, charge, ligand density, etc.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Chun-Xia Zhao
    Research group Centre for Biomolecular Engineering
    Contact email z.chunxia@uq.edu.au

     

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health
  • Microfluidic Strategy for Circulating Tumour Cells Analysis in Cancer Patients

    Project keywords

    Cancer Diagnostics, Circulating tumor cells, Electrohydrodynamics, Microfluidics

    Project summary

    With cancer mortality rates continuing to rise, the national impact of the cancer is beginning to overwhelm healthcare services. The progression of cancer in patients is characterized by cells that invade locally and metastasize to nearby tissues or travel through the blood stream to set up colonies in the other parts of the body. These cells, accounting for 1-100 cells in about a million peripheral blood mononuclear cells, are known as circulating tumour cells (CTCs). Development of advanced technology for capturing CTCs in blood in the early stage of the metastasis process would be transformative in the treatment of cancer. This project strives to build and test a microfluidic device with the capacity to enable selective capture and sensitive detection of CTCs by incorporating three-dimensional microstructured electrodes within the detection/capture domain of the device.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Muhammad J. A. Shiddiky ; Prof Matt Trau  
    Research group Trau Group
    Contact email m.shiddiky@uq.edu.au; m.trau@uq.edu.au

     

    Cancer Diagnostics, Circulating tumor cells, Electrohydrodynamics, Microfluidics
  • Microfluidic synthesis of hierarchical materials for applications in sustained and controlled release

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Microfluidics, Microparticles, Single emulsions, Microcapsules, Complex emulsions

    Project summary

    Microfluidics has been widely used for making various kinds of hierarchical materials such as complex emulsions, microarticles, microcapsules etc with uniform size and precisely controlled properties due to their superior capabilities in generating monodisperse emulsions, precisely controlling the process inside droplets. We have developed microfluidic approaches for making simple and complex emulsions, hollow spheres and hierarchical particles with unique structure and surface morphology, which have great potential in drug delivery and controlled release. Projects are available for developing various hierarchical microstructures for controlled release of active components for different applications.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Chun-Xia Zhao
    Research group Centre for Biomolecular Engineering
    Contact email z.chunxia@uq.edu.au

     

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health,
  • Nano-vaccines

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Nanotechnology, Antigen delivery, Vaccine adjuvants, Immune responses

    Project summary

    Vaccination is essential for effective control of infectious diseases. Subunit vaccines consist of isolated recombinant antigens and adjuvants that boost antigen immunity, having an improved safety profile over traditional vaccines. This project aims to develop effective immune adjuvants with low toxicity that promote both cellular (Th1) and humoral (Th2) immune responses of antigens and to generate robust long term immunity. Nanomaterials are engineered with desired structures to act as adjuvants and delivery vehicles for antigens with the following functions, 1) prompting the "depot" effect and increasing the availability of antigens to antigen presenting cells (APCs); 2) generating danger signals (e.g. reactive oxygen species, ROS) or co-delivering other immunostimulatory compounds (e.g. glucans) to activate NLRP3 inflammasome and trigger the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines (Mechanism 1 in Scheme); and 3) enhancing cellular uptake by APCs via endocytosis pathway to promote strong Th1 immune response (Mechanism 2). Nano-vaccines are expected to improve healthcare quality for both human beings and livestock.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Chengzhong Yu
    Research group Yu Group
    Contact email c.yu@uq.edu.au
    Vaccination is essential for effective control of infectious diseases. Subunit vaccines consist of isolated recombinant antigens and adjuvants that boost antigen immunity, having an improved safety profile over traditional vaccines
  • Nanofunctional Surfaces for Control of the Biological Interface

    Project keywords

    Cell & Tissue Engineering, Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health

    Project summary

    Biomaterials are defined as nonviable materials used in a medical device or setting intended to interact with biological systems. The key phrase in this definition indicates that biomaterials should be designed to respond to the biological environment. An enormous body of work has been dedicated to controlling the type and extent of the interactions between biomaterials and biology, however, the continuing intense activity in this field indicates that there remain key challenges to be addressed. Some of the most important of these are:

    1. Development of highly functional materials to control (augment or prevent) cellular interactions through control of surface chemistry and topography;
    2. Improvement of long-term robustness of functional surfaces using durable attachment chemistry;
    3. An integrated pathway to adoption of these materials including input from materials scientists, chemists and microbiologists.

    It is the aim of this project to tackle all three challenges above, and to demonstrate the pathway from the chemistry laboratory to the clinical setting through a focus on two important applications. The project primarily involves the development of new polymers with controlled and well-understood interactions with cells. In the first sub-project, polymers with strong biocidal activity will be developed. In the second polymers which augment the interactions between biomedical devices and cells, for example in titanium alloy implants, will be prepared and tested. The relationship between surface structure and activity can only be established through a detailed study of the nanostructure of the surface and the cell biology. The project will provide training in advanced polymer synthetic techniques and biomaterials science. The work is highly multidisciplinary and involves collaboration with distinguished colleagues at UQ, QIMR and IHBI.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Hui Peng
    Research group Whittaker Polymer Group
    Contact email h.peng@uq.edu.au

     

    Cell & Tissue Engineering, Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health
  • Nanomaterials for Energy Storage

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Energy, Manufacturing, Sustainability, Electrochemistry, Energy Storage

    Project summary

    Electrochemical energy storage and conversion systems, which primarily include rechargeable batteries and supercapacitors, are among the leading technologies that have been projected to provide the solution to the complex energy storage gridlock. This project aims to develop advanced electrochemical energy storage systems with high energy density, high power density, and long serving life for diverse applications. We are designing new protocols to prepare nanostructured materials (patented), including carbon, metal oxides and their composites, for a broad spectrum of energy storage applications.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Chengzhong Yu
    Dr Xiaodan Huang
    Research group Yu Group
    Contact email c.yu@uq.edu.au
    x.huang@uq.edu.au
    Electrochemical energy storage and conversion systems, which primarily include rechargeable batteries and supercapacitors, are among the leading technologies that have been projected to provide the solution to the complex energy storage gridloc
  • Nanomaterials for Water Treatment

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Health, Manufacturing, Sustainability, Water Treatment, Nanoparticles, Absorbents

    Project summary

    Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth and is regularly subject to the prolonged rainfall deficiency, increased surface water salinity and water bodies contamination. Decontamination, desalination and separation technologies have captured great interest as the alternative ways to augment the available water resources. We are developing new strategies to prepare low cost and high performance nanomaterials / nanodevices for water pollutants (heavy metal ions and organic toxins) removal and saline water desalination.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Chengzhong Yu
    Dr Xiaodan Huang
    Research group Yu Group
    Contact email c.yu@uq.edu.au
    x.huang@uq.edu.au
    Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth and is regularly subject to the prolonged rainfall deficiency, increased surface water salinity and water bodies contamination.
  • Nanoporous membranes for gas separation

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Energy, Gas separation, Quantum dynamics, Nanoporous membranes, Membrane design, Quantum sieving, Transport

    Project summary

    The separation of gases plays a key role in various processes from the industrial to the small scale, including applications such as hydrogen production from syngas, separating atmospheric gases for medical and industrial use, and isotope separation for nuclear power utilization. Among the diverse approaches for gas separation, membrane technology offers several benefits including facile operation, low energy consumption, and easy maintenance. During such a process, gas in a mixture is separated when it is forced to diffuse through a membrane by exploiting the differences in the relative capture/penetration rates of the gas components at the surface of the structure and/or relative diffusion rates of the gas components inside the structure. Normally two parameters can be used to describe the performance of a membrane, permeance and selectivity. Permeance indicates the membrane’s processing capacity per unit time: a high permeance means a high productivity of the membrane. Selectivity expresses the membrane’s capacity to separate a desired component from the feed mixture. Carbon materials are widely used in membrane gas separations, since carbon is abundant and controlled synthesis of its allotropes has been extensively studied. In particular, one would like to design and synthesize carbon membranes having desired functional properties. This objective can be greatly aided by molecular modelling, which is able to predict the relevant properties of the materials.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Debra Bernhardt
    Research group Bernhardt Group
    Contact email d.bernhardt@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Energy, Gas separation, Quantum dynamics, Nanoporous membranes, Membrane design, Quantum sieving, Transport
  • Nanoshearing Devices for Exosome Detection

    Project keywords

    Cancer Diagnostics, Exosomes, Electrohydrodynamics, Microfluidics

    Project summary

    With health expenditure continuing to rise ($4.5 billion in direct health system costs within Australia), there is an urgent need for new biomarkers and technologies to personalise cancer treatment and to make treatments more effective. Further, it is also important that effective molecular screening technologies for early detection of biomarkers be employed to improve patient survival. One biomarker with excellent potential is the presence of exosomes in body fluids such as blood, urine and saliva, which has been shown to carry molecular information representative of the parent cell or tumour. Unlike other blood-based markers such as circulating tumor cells (1-100 cells/mL of blood), exosomes are generally present in large numbers in body fluids and represent a simple and non-invasive source of actually profiling blood, that may potentially correlate with the tumour. Recently, we discovered a physical phenomenon referred to as tunable “nanoshearing”, which allows exquisite control of nanoscopic fluid flow engendered within a nanometers of an electrode surface and provides a new capability to physically capture and/or displace non-specifically bound species. This project will employ this newly discovered phenomenon to specifically isolate, detect, and characterise exosomes in cancer patients.

    This translational-focused interdisciplinary project combines the latest developments in microfludics platform and cellular/molecular genetics with cutting edge nanobiotechnology and will provide an opportunity for students to acquire diverse skills in engineering, chemistry, molecular biology and bioengineering.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Muhammad J. A. Shiddiky; Prof Matt Trau 
    Research group Trau Group
    Contact email m.shiddiky@uq.edu.au; m.trau@uq.edu.au

     

    Cancer Diagnostics, Exosomes, Electrohydrodynamics, Microfluidics
  • Nanotechnology for High-performance Fertilizers

    Project keywords

    Nanotechnology, Fertilizer, Cation Exchange, Globe Warming

    Project summary

    Natural nitrogen circulation in soil decreases the efficiency of fertilisers due to the leaching, run-off and emission of nitrogen. Frequent fertilizer application leads to enormous economic costs and arises concerns on nutrient pollutions. The emission of green house gas NOx and nitrogen discharge into water body have severely influenced local environment and global climate. This project aims to develop novel fertilizer amendments for agricultural applications through 1) engineering a new-generation nanoclay materials with high exchange capacity as nutrient sorbers to prevent nitrogen loss; 2) developing efficient fertilizer formulations by achieving the sustained release of nutrient from the absorber; 3) minimizing the emission of nitrogen into atmosphere and water body to address the pollution problems.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Chengzhong Yu
    Dr Jun Zhang
    Research group Yu Group
    Contact email

    c.yu@uq.edu.au
    j.zhang11@uq.edu.au

    Natural nitrogen circulation in soil decreases the efficiency of fertilisers due to the leaching, run-off and emission of nitrogen. Frequent fertilizer application leads to enormous economic costs and arises concerns on nutrient pollutions.
  • Nanotechnology for Livestock Healthcare

    Project keywords

    Nanotechnology, Livestock, Pesticides, Animal feed, Animal healthcare

    Project summary

    Livestock production and other sectors of the livestock supply chain contribute significantly to regional communities and the overall Australia economy. This project aims to use state-of-the-art nanotechnology to improve livestock healthcare through the following aspects: 1) developing a safe and efficient alternative (antibacterial nano-formulation) to antibiotic supplements in animal nutrition products; 2) generating novel nano-pesticides with improved safety and performance for livestock pest control; 3) engineering nano-digestive enzymes to address small animal digestive problems.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator

    Professor Chengzhong Yu
    Dr Meihua Yu

    Research group Yu Group
    Contact email

    c.yu@uq.edu.au
    m.yu2@uq.edu.au

    This project aims to use state-of-the-art nanotechnology to improve
  • New Electrode Materials for Rechargeable Batteries

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Energy, Layered compounds, Cathode materials, Energy Density, Power density

    Project summary

    This project aims to develop high performance  electrode materials for rechargeable batteries. The key moviation is to improve the energy and power density of the electrode materials to satisfy the critical requirements of electric vehicles' power system. This project will focus on developing new type layered compounds or composites that have high specific capacity and better rate performance and cycling stability. Such batteries will offer tremendous potential for energy storage applications in hybrid (electric) vehicles and renewable energy supply.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Lianzhou Wang
    Research group Nanomac
    Contact email l.wang@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Energy, Layered compounds, Cathode materials, Energy Density, Power density
  • Novel Biologically-Responsive MRI Agents

    Project keywords

    Medical imaging, Biologically responsive, MRI, Disease detection, Polymer architecture, Controlled radical polymerisation, Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health

    Project summary

    The development of MRI imaging agents has been central to the rise of MRI as a leading medical diagnostic tool. An MRI imaging agent is a molecular adjunct which enables enhanced image definition and reduced imaging times, as well as mapping of specific cell types. Molecular imaging agents measure specific biochemical function. This is particularly important as our understanding of the biology of diseased tissue improves. Thus molecular imaging agents which respond to the biological environment offer the promise of images which delineate specific, e.g. diseased cells, non-invasively and in real time. It is acknowledged that such approaches will be part of the coming revolution in disease identification and treatment. In this project new imaging agents will be developed which respond to specific biological triggers relevant to diseases, for e.g. changes in pH, ionic strength, oxygen tension, redox environment and temperature. The project will involve synthesis of novel functional polymers using controlled radical polymerisation methods and testing of these molecules as imaging agents in animal models. Disease targets include prostate cancer, glioma and Alzheimer's disease. The work will be conducted in the world-class facilities of the AIBN and the Centre for Advanced Imaging. The project is supported by the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council and involves extensive national and international collaboration.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Andrew Whittaker
    Research group Whittaker Polymer Group
    Contact email a.whittaker@uq.edu.au

     

    Medical imaging, Biologically responsive, MRI, Disease detection, Polymer architecture, Controlled radical polymerisation, Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health
  • Point-of-Care Diagnostics

    Project keywords

    Point-of-Care, Molecular diagnostics, Molecular biology, Chemistry, Biotechnology

    Project summary

    Point-of-care (POC) diagnostics have the potential to revolutionize global health care by enabling diseases to be rapidly diagnosed ‘on the spot’ using minimal specialized infrastructure. POC strategies need to be highly sensitive, specific, practical, cost effective and portable if they are to be used in resource limited settings. We are focused on novel and simple molecular assays to generate new POC diagnostic technologies. Students will be involved in designing, developing and evaluating methods to rapidly detect pathogenic DNA with minimal equipment or using "everyday" devices such as mobile phones. This interdisciplinary project will provide an opportunity to acquire diverse skills in chemistry, molecular biology, bioengineering, and biotechnology.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Matt Trau & Dr Eugene Wee
    Research group Trau Group
    Contact email m.trau@uq.edu.au, j.wee@uq.edu.au

     

    Point-of-Care, Molecular diagnostics, Molecular biology, Chemistry, Biotechnology
  • Polymer-nanomaterial hybrids

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Health, Energy, Materials, Manufacturing, Self assembly, functional copolymers, Surface interactions, Nanofabrication, Nanostructure, Morphology, Coatings, Mesoscale, Block copolymers

    Project summary

    Many inorganic nanoparticles possess interesting and useful properties that differ significantly from the bulk properties. The properties can be taken advantage of in a range of applications including, sensors, catalysts, batteries, solar cells, biomedical imaging agents and photonics. In many cases the nanoparticles are unstable in the conditions that are applicable to the desired application. Self assembly of nanoparticles with polymers can be used to stabilise the particles and also mediate the degree of aggregation and/or higher order organisation, which can also be used to tune the properties, as well as opening up the possibility of discovery new properties. Projects are available in the self assembly and property characterisation of novel polymer-nanoparticle materials and coatings.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Associate Professor Idriss Blakey
    Research group Whittaker Group
    Contact email i.blakey@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Health, Energy, Materials, Manufacturing, Self assembly, functional copolymers, Surface interactions, Nanofabrication, Nanostructure, Morphology, Coatings, Mesoscale, Block copolymers
  • Polymer-nanomaterial hybrids

    Project keywords

    self assembly, functional copolymers, surface interactions, nanofabrication, nanostructure, morphology, coatings, mesoscale, block copolymers

    Project summary

    Many inorganic nanoparticles possess interesting and useful properties that differ significantly from the bulk properties. The properties can be taken advantage of in a range of applications including, sensors, catalysts, batteries, solar cells, biomedical imaging agents and photonics. In many cases the nanoparticles are unstable in the conditions that are applicable to the desired application. Self assembly of nanoparticles with polymers can be used to stabilise the particles and also mediate the degree of aggregation and/or higher order organisation, which can also be used to tune the properties, as well as opening up the possibility of discovery new properties. Projects are available in the self assembly and property characterisation of novel polymer-nanoparticle materials and coatings.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator A/Prof Idriss Blakey
    Research group Polymer Chemistry Group                                      
    Contact email i.blakey@uq.edu.au

     

    self assembly, functional copolymers, surface interactions, nanofabrication, nanostructure, morphology, coatings, mesoscale, block copolymers
  • Polymers in nanomedicine: development of polymeric theranostics

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Nanomedicine, Molecular imaging, Theranostics, Drug delivery, Gene delivery, siRNA, Nanotechnology, Polymer

    Project summary

    Recent synthetic advances that facilitate control over polymer structure and functionality have led to the advent of polymer theranostics; devices capable of simultaneously diagnosing disease, delivering a therapy and monitoring the treatment and disease progression. While the potential application of such devices is tremendous, in vivo monitoring remains a significant scientific challenge. While the ultimate aim in polymer theranostics is the development of a multi-modal, multi-functional, biodegradable delivery device with the possibility of facile conjugation of therapeutics, imaging agents and targeting moieties, current methodologies are plagued by poor drug loading, inefficient cell uptake, targeting inefficiencies, synthetic complexities or a combination of all of these factors. This project explores the design, synthesis and preclinical testing of polymeric theranostics that incorporate various molecular imaging modalities as a means of monitoring drug and gene therapies.

    Project contacts 

    Lead investigator Dr Kristofer Thurecht
    Research group Whittaker Group
    Contact email k.thurecht@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Nanomedicine, Molecular imaging, Theranostics, Drug delivery, Gene delivery, siRNA, Nanotechnology, Polymer
  • Probing molecular determinants of Ageing using human IPSC and reprogramming models

    Project keywords

    iPSC, Reprogramming, differentiation, epigenetics, Ageing, neurons, organoids, CRISPR

    Project summary

    In this project CRISPR technology will be used to engineer accellerated ageing models in human iPSC that subsequently will be subjected to neuronal differentiation in 2D and 3D (brain organoid) settings. Simultaneously isogenic somatic cells will be directly reprogrammed into equivalent neuronal cell types to probe the genetic and epigenetic drivers of in vitro observable ageing phenomena. 

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Ernst Wolvetang
    Research group Stem Cell Engineering Group
    Contact email e.wolvetang@uq.edu.au

     

    Project keywords iPSC, Reprogramming, differentiation, epigenetics, Ageing, neurons, organoids, CRISPR Project summary In this project CRISPR technology will be used to engineer accellerated ageing models in human iP...
  • Rapid and Multiplexed Point-of-Care Diagnosis with Rational Designed Plasmonic Nanoassemblies

    Project keywords

    surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, biomarker, multiplex, Plasmonic nanoassemblies, rapid, point-of-care diagnosis

    Project summary

    The central aim of this project is to develop a novel technology/sensor platform for rapid and ultrasensitive detection of multiple biomarkers for breast cancer from simulated body fluids and in clinic by magnetic pulling-down immunoassay using rational designed, tailor-made surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) active super plamsonic nanostructures in a miniaturised flow-through system. 3D plasmonic superstructures as novel SERS labels will be rationally designed and characterised at single-particle level. Tumor biomarkers for breast cancer will be employed as the model target for establishing the detection platform in a portable configuration for point-of-care diagnostics.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Yuling Wang; Prof Matt Trau
    Research group Trau Group
    Contact email m.trau@uq.edu.au, y.wang27@uq.edu.au
    surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, biomarker, multiplex, Plasmonic nanoassemblies, rapid, point-of-care diagnosis
  • Self-assembly of block polymers for applications in nanofabrication and for tuning interfacial interactions

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Energy, Materials, Manufacturing, Self assembly, Block copolymers, Surface interactions, Nanofabrication, Nanostructure, Morphology, Coatings, Lithography

    Project summary

    Block copolymers (BCPs) are comprised of two distinct, but covalently linked polymer chains, which under certain circumstances form structures that are on the order of nanometers. By controlling the orientation and/or morphology of block copolymer domains it is possible to use them as a nanofabrication template in a range of applications, including advanced lithography, next generation batteries, high density magnetic storage media, membranes and metamaterials. A range of projects are available that will involve synthesis and/or morphological characterisation of block copolymers to advance the field of nanofabrication. Industry collaborators for some projects may include The Dow Chemical Company.  Block copolymers can also be used to tune interfacial interactions.

    The interfaces of materials with their immediate environment can be crucial for their ultimate performance in a gamut of applications, which include biomaterials, sensors, coatings (eg. paint) and nanofabrication. At the same time it is important for a material to have appropriate bulk properties, such as strength, durability, toughness and biodegradability, where in many cases the bulk and surface properties are incompatible or the cost is prohibitive. One approach to achieve the desired performance is to modify the surface properties of a material with appropriate bulk properties. A range of projects are available for investigating novel methods of surface modification and/or targeting novel applications.

    Project contacts 

    Lead investigator Associate Professor Idriss Blakey
    Research group Whittaker Group
    Contact email i.blakey@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Energy, Materials, Manufacturing, Self assembly, Block copolymers, Surface interactions, Nanofabrication, Nanostructure, Morphology, Coatings, Lithography
  • Sensitive Detection of Biomolecules

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Mass spectrometry, Enrichment, Biomarkers, Detection, Biomolecules

    Project summary

    Biomolecules with clinical significance are most often various forms of proteins or peptides at very low concentrations in biological systems. Quantitative analysis of them is a big challenge due to the complexity of bio-samples, but essential for diagnosis and clinical applications. In this project, we focus on developing novel approaches for the sensitive detection of trace amount biomolecules using state-of-the-art nanotechnology.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Chengzhong Yu
    Research group Yu Group
    Contact email c.yu@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Mass spectrometry, Enrichment, Biomarkers, Detection, Biomolecules
  • Sustainable dollar notes and other polypropylenes from bio-derived feedstocks

    Project keywords

    Systems Biology, Materials, Manufacturing, Sustainability, Propanol, Polypropylene, Bio-feedstock, Fermentation, Microbes, Proteomics, Metabolomics, Transcriptomics

    Project summary

    Propylene and polypropylenes are essential feedstock chemicals and materials for the global chemical industry, producing  thousands of products of use in our every day lives. These products include fibers, packaging, automotive parts and, in Australia, even bank notes. Propylene is currently derived from fossil feedstocks as a by-product of the oil refining process. In order to decrease dependence on these finite resources and improve sustainability, the chemical industry is seeking green alternatives to produce propylene. This project aims to produce propylene precursors in a biotechnological fermentation process that is optimised to increase yields and productivities using a systems biology approach. The project is also investigating ways to engineer the fermentation microorganisms to improve yields.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Lars Nielsen, Dr Esteban Marcellin
    Research group AIBN Systems & Synthetic Biology
    Contact email lars.nielsen@uq.edu.au

     

    Systems Biology, Materials, Sustainability, Propylene, Propanol, Propionic acid, Propionibacterium, Fermentation, Proteomics, Metabolomics, Transcriptomics
  • Sustainable molecular and chemical engineering of soft and hard materials

    Project keywords

    Biosurfactants, Nanoemulsions, Nanocapsules, Microfluidics, Antibiotics, Drug delivery, Sustained release, Stimuli-responsive, Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Materials, Sustainability

    Project summary

    A sustainable future demands new sustainable technology able to make soft and hard materials. We have been working on the development of soft and hard materials through designing new biomolecules (peptides and proteins) and developing new green platform technologies. A number of novel technologies have been developed in Prof. Anton Middelberg's lab.


    (1) Emulsion and biomimetic dual-templating technology for making silica capsules for controlled and sustained release. This technology is based on the novel design of bifunctional peptides or proteins by modularizing a surface active peptide or protein sequence with a sequence having biosilisification activity, thus achieving the formation of stable nanoemulsions followed by the nucleation and growth of silica shell at the oil–water interface under benign conditions. This technology represents a new strategy for forming core-shell nanomaterials using sustainable technology, opening opportunities for further applications in biomedical and agricultural domains, such as slow release of active components, drug delivery with sustained release and slow release of antigens for single-dose vaccines.


    (2) Stimuli-responsive soft materials based on biomolecules manufactured from renewable resources. Prof. Anton Middelberg's group has led the way internationally in developing new stimuli-responsive foam/emulsion-control technology, relying on peptides or proteins that self-assemble at the air-water or oil-water interface to create a mechanically-strong layer that can be dissipated reversibly by a pH trigger. Protein or peptide-based biosurfactants offer process and design advantages such as ‘switchability’ and ‘tailorability’, for example tailorable nanoemulsions for drug and vaccine delivery.


    (3) Simple and low-cost platform technology for producing bioproducts, including peptide or protein biosurfactants, peptide antibiotics. A novel and scalable purification method has been developed for a microbially-produced functional biosurfactant protein. This technology can be extended for other valuable proteins, as well as for fusions of this protein with other valuable peptides or proteins.


    (4) Microfluidic synthesis of hierarchical materials for applications in sustained and controlled drug release. We have developed microfluidic approaches for making simple and complex emulsions, hollow spheres and hierarchical particles with unique structure and surface morphology, which have great potential in drug delivery and controlled release.
     

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Chun-Xia Zhao
    Research group Middelberg Group
    Contact email z.chunxia@uq.edu.au

     

    Biosurfactants, Nanoemulsions, Nanocapsules, Microfluidics, Antibiotics, Drug delivery, Sustained release, Stimuli-responsive, Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Materials, Sustainability
  • Synthetic protease receptors for Point of Care diagnostics

    Project keywords

    Nanobiotechnology, Health, Diagnostics, Proteases, Point of Care, Synthetic Biology, Cancer, Directed Evolution

    Project summary

    Proteases are valuable cancer biomarkers. For instance Prostate–Specific Antigen (PSA) test has been widely used to screen men for prostate cancer. It is also used to monitor men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer to see if their cancer has recurred after initial treatment or is responding to therapy. The clinically used diagnostic PSA tests measure the total amount of PSA protein in the blood. However PSA is a serine protease which exists in serum in three forms of which only one has proteolytic  activity. Furthermore changes to additional proteases such as members of kallikrein and Matrix Metalloproteinase (MMP) families have been shown to have diagnostic and prognostic value for prostate cancer. The ability to measure a panel of prostate cancer specific proteases in biological fluid would provide a much more differentiated and predictive diagnostic test. We combined structure-based protein design and directed evolution to create a prototype of a protease sensor, based on highly specific potyvirus protease, TVMV. In this design, the protease was C-terminally extended with a sequence containing a protease recognition site and a sequence that specifically binds and inhibits the active TVMV’s active site. We demonstrate that such biosensor can specifically detect and amplify the proteolytic activity.We now extend the developed technology to create a point-of-care diagnostic test for the active forms of kallikrein as well and matrix metalloproteinase that have diagnostic value for prostate cancer.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Dr Viktor Stein
    Research group Alexandrov Group
    Contact email k.alexandrov@uq.edu.au
    Nanobiotechnology, Health, Diagnostics, Proteases, Point of Care, Synthetic Biology, Cancer, Directed Evolution
  • Target Delivery of Anti-tumour Therapeutics for Improved Cancer Treatment

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Target delivery, Tumour, Nanoparticle, Tumor Microenvironment, RNAi, Cytokines, Anti-tumour Therapeutics

    Project summary

    This project uses the CaP-lipid-based nanoparticle to deliver therapeutic agents (such as siRNAs, growth factors, cytokines, and/or drugs) to target cells, tumours or tumour microenvironment, leading to the regression or even the elimination of solid tumours. 

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Associate Professor Zhi Ping (Gordon) Xu
    Research group Nanomac
    Contact email gordonxu@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Target delivery, Tumour, Nanoparticle, Tumor Microenvironment, RNAi, Cytokines, Anti-tumour Therapeutics
  • Tissue Chips - Next generation in vitro model for targeted therapeutics

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health, Tissue Chips, In vitro, Microfluidics, In vivo, Organ Chips

    Project summary

    Cancer remains a leading cause of death worldwide. Engineered nanomaterials for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer have attracted enormous interest in past decades, and they hold great promise for cancer therapy due to their unique properties such as nanoscale size, controlled drug release and their potential in targeted delivery. A wide range of nanomaterials have been developed for cancer therapy, ranging from inorganic, organic, polymer particles to lipids, proteins and other synthetic compounds. While only 1318 nanomedicine formulations in the field of cancer therapy entered clinical trials with most of them focusing on marketed products, such as liposomal or albumin-based systems. Currently only four nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems have been approved by the FDA (Doxil, DaunoXome, Marqibo, and Abraxane). This demonstrates the huge gap between laboratory research and clinical translation of drug delivery systems. One of the major challenges is the lack of reliable and fast platforms to evaluate and optimize the large libraries of nanomaterials. Researchers mainly rely on in vitro cell culture and in vivo animal models to evaluate the efficacy of nanomaterials. 2D cell culture systems are simple and convenient, but they are unable to capture the complexity of biological processes. In contrast, animal models have served as valuable platforms to explore the in vivo behaviour of targeting nanomaterials, but they are time-consuming, costly and often fail to recapitulate human organ functions. A number of projects are available that involve the development of tumour-on-a-chip, organs-on-a-chip for rapid preclinical evaluation of potential nanomaterials for targeted therapeutics.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Chun-Xia Zhao
    Research group Centre for Biomolecular Engineering
    Contact email z.chunxia@uq.edu.au

     

    Nanomaterials, Nanobiotechnology, Health
  • Transport in nanoporous materials

    Project keywords

    Nanomaterials, Energy, Manufacturing, Sustainability, Slip, Transport, Dynamical Systems, Friction, TTCF

    Project summary

    Transport through microporous materials is at the core of many applications of industrial relevance, from drug delivery to species separation and desalination. This has been enabled partly due to the technological developments in nanoscale devices but also to a better theoretical understanding of the interactions involved.

    Even though theoretical models have a long history they only work in limiting cases, e.g. low or high densities, and highly idealized interactions between fluid-fluid and fluid-wall elements. This is, to a certain extent, unavoidable due to the extremely complex physical processes that take place inside pores and membranes even for simple atomic systems.

    In this project we investigate systems in ultra-confined geometries (e.g. slit pores, nanotubes, zeolites) composed of atomic or light molecular elements, such as water, and characterize phenomena of interest such as slip at interfaces and fluid friction. We propose a new and efficient method to directly calculate slip at the wall-fluid interface through Nonequilibrium Molecular Dynamics simulations therefore offering a cheap but reliable alternative to the application of theoretical models of idealized systems. We study how molecular weight and shape might influence transport and slip in nanopores of different composition and conformation. This knowledge will prove fundamental to the design and fabrication of new devices for the nanotechnology industry.

    We are also applying this knowledge in the context of desalination, to research new and more efficient zeolites optimizing water diffusivity while maximizing salt ions rejection. 

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Professor Debra Bernhardt
    Research group Bernhardt Group
    Contact email d.bernhardt@uq.edu.au
    Nanomaterials, Energy, Manufacturing, Sustainability, Slip, Transport, Dynamical Systems, Friction, TTCF
  • Unravelling the molecular basis of novel leukodystrophies

    Project keywords

    Cell and tissue engineering, health, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), leukodystrophy, genome editing, neurons, oligodendrocytes, stem cells

    Project summary

    Approximately half of patients with leukodystrophies, or genetic disorders of central nervous system myelin, do not have an identified genetic defect. HGS of patients with infantile onset diffuse leukoencephalopathy and brainstem signal abnormalities revealed  mutation of DARS as the molecular culprit of this disease.
    DARS encodes a cytoplasmic aspartyl-tRNA synthetase commonly thought to charge its cognate tRNA with aspartate during protein biosynthesis, though pathogenesis in this and other aminoacyl tRNA synthetase (ARS) disorders may be related to as yet unknown functions in catabolism. We propose to explore the DARS related leukoencephalopathy phenotype, while clarifying its mechanisms and avenues for potential therapeutics.
    DARS mutated patient iPSC cells of different lineages (neuronal, glial and oligodendrocytes) will be screened for viability, morphology, activation induced calcium handling, and profiled by RNA-seq to examine the genome-wide effects of DARS mutations. This project will further involve the development of robust assays to quantify myelination of target cells and various strategies to improve oligodendrocyte function in DARS patients. Controls will be non-mutated cells, isogenic parental lines and CRISPR-based genome corrected DARS iPSC and iPSC with engineered DARS mutations. We anticipate that this work will provide a robust framework for understanding the etiology of DARS-associated Hereditary  Spastic Paraplegia and the role of DARS in myelination and brain function.

    Project contacts

    Lead investigator Associate Professor Ernst Wolvetang
    Research group Wolvetang Group
    Contact email e.wolvetang@uq.edu.au
    Cell and tissue engineering, health, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), leukodystrophy, genome editing, neurons, oligodendrocytes, stem cells
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