The common factor in the analysis of food contamination, illicit drug usage or disease onsets, such as cancer or outbreaks of infection, is a ‘needle-in-a-haystack’ problem in detecting low abundance molecular or cellular targets in a complex system.

Today’s detection technologies are poorly suited to early, rapid identification and quantification of analytical targets few in number. The technologies are also expensive, bulky, generally confined to centralised pathology labs and require highly specialist operational and analytical expertise.

The Australian Research Council Integrated Device for End-User Analysis at Low Levels Research Hub (IDEAL Research Hub) aims to create technologies that will enable industry to develop analytical devices with vastly improved detection capabilities but are also affordable, portable, fast and adaptable.

These point-of-care diagnostic and testing technologies will be designed for use at the clinic, on the production line or in the field and could be applied in health (particularly disease diagnosis, illicit drug testing, environmental monitoring (e.g. water testing) or food safety and quality.

Development of personal consumer products may also help individuals manage their own health care, for example, using mobile phone apps, remote monitoring or online access to therapies.

The IDEAL Research Hub’s work will help improve public and workplace safety in numerous ways – enhanced food testing, better disease survival rates due to earlier detection, ‘healthier’ care facilities, and more comprehensive drug testing in workplaces and transport systems.

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