University supports commercialisation of cancer diagnosis technology


The December 2023 launch of AlleSense supports the commercialisation of technology invented by La Trobe researchers Professor Brian Abbey and Dr Eugeniu Balaur, from the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science and the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.

AlleSense will be established with an initial investment of $2.5 million, which is being driven by Welcome Ventures. It will enable researchers to progress the development of the NanoMslide to clinical trials and facilitate further technology validation with their global partners. Julian Sutton from Welcome will be AlleSense’s inaugural Managing Director.

The world-first nanofabricated microscope slide – NanoMslide – uses colour contrast to easily and quickly identify abnormal cells in a suspect sample. It works by applying a special coating created using cutting-edge nanofabrication technology, to the humble glass microscope slide, effectively turning it into a miniature chemistry lab, reducing time, and removing dyes from the process.

Innovation supports cancer diagnostics

It can be applied to any tissue and has shown significant promise in aiding the diagnosis of early-stage and difficult-to-diagnose cancers – including breast cancer.

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The investment will also support the scale-up of manufacturing of the product, ensuring the slides will be produced in Australia for a global market.

The AlleSense team is validating their manufacturing and quality management system with support from the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) and its ANFF-C translation fund, as well as the ANFF-funded Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication (MCN), which purchased an instrument to support the team’s proof-of-scale studies.

They plan for the technology to undergo rapid clinical translation and be available for research use by the end of 2024.

World-leading research

The launch of AlleSense follows eight years of intensive research by the La Trobe University team at the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science in collaboration with the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Garvan Institute of Medical Research. The technology gained significant global attention following publication in Nature in 2021.

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Inventor and Co-Founder Professor Brian Abbey, Deputy Director of the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science (LIMS), said developing the NanoMslide was a career highlight and by commercialising the technology hoped to be able to share it with the world.

“Being able to deliver this potentially life-changing technology to people around the world is very exciting,” he says.

“The support of La Trobe University has been critical to enabling us to take this technology out of the research lab and develop it into a product that could one day be used by millions of people.”

The NanoMslide was supported through La Trobe’s Strategic Innovation Fund, established to fast-track the translation of research findings into successful business ventures.

Universities turn academic research into commercial opportunities

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO says the University was proud to support the development of AlleSense.

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“Universities are no longer just learning and discovery spaces, but places where those discoveries can be developed and brought to life through commercialisation,” he says.

“We saw the great potential in the NanoMslide from the beginning and are delighted to have been an important partner in the development of AlleSense.”

Co-inventor Professor Belinda Parker and her team at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre have been involved in the development of the NanoMslide from its early days, trialling the new technology in her lab and leveraging her expertise in very early-stage breast cancer.

“This technology has the potential to distinguish cancer cells from normal or benign cells in the breast, allowing accurate diagnosis at a very early stage. We are excited to test whether the NanoMSlide also has potential in early diagnosis of a range of cancers,” Professor Parker says.

The company will be based at La Trobe’s Bundoora campus, part of the Research & Innovation Precinct which is a core component of the University City of the Future.

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Professor Abbey received a $2.9 million NHMRC Investigator Grant to further his NanoMSlide research in December 2023.

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