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Newcastle team develops pain-free diabetes test

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A Newcastle team of scientists is set to revolutionise the lives of those with diabetes after developing a pain-free test that has won them national recognition.

Led by physicist Professor Paul Dastoor, the University of Newcastle (UoN) biosensor project has been crowned winner of the prestigious Shaping Australia Problem Solver Award. 

An initiative of Universities Australia, the Shaping Australia Awards acknowledge and celebrate the extraordinary ways Australia’s universities and the people within them shape the nation. 

The UoN biosensor project edged out six national finalists in the Problem Solver category, which aims to change the lives of Australians for the better. 

Diabetes testing solved: “It’s pain-free. The user could simply test their saliva to test their blood glucose levels.” 

Professor Dastoor said the inspiration behind the biosensor was to empower the 1.3 million people living with diabetes in Australia to monitor their health with ease. 

“Globally, the number of individuals with diabetes is predicted to reach 1.3 billion by 2050,” he stated. 

“Testing blood glucose can involve pain and expense. The regime of testing frequently can be particularly difficult for children and their carers.”

Professor Dastoor’s biosensor team from the University’s Centre for Organic Electronics also includes Dr Daniel Elkington, Dr Nathan Cooling and Dr Swee Lu Lim. 

Renowned for inventions like solar paint and printable solar panels, Professor Dastoor and his co-horts developed the printable saliva-based glucose biosensor.

“The biosensor is a hundred times more sensitive than traditional blood sensors, using carbon-based organic materials,” he said. 

“It’s pain-free. The user could simply test their saliva to test their blood glucose levels.” 

Adaptable to various diseases, the biosensor is being commercialised for widespread use. 

Universities Australia CEO Luke Sheehy said: “Our higher education sector is an engine for economic growth, addresses inequality through access to education, educates about 1.5 million people each year, runs a multibillion-dollar export industry and supports more than 250,000 jobs. 

“Australia is stronger for the transformative research, world-class teaching and the community spirit our universities support and deliver. 

“The Shaping Australia Awards is all about celebrating the rich contribution universities make to the nation, and the work showcased through our finalists is worth applauding. 

“On behalf of Universities Australia, I want to extend my congratulations to our seven winners and 11 finalists,” Mr Sheehy said. 

The award was presented to Professor Paul Dastoor and Dr Daniel Elkington in a ceremony at Parliament House on Tuesday night (27 February). 

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