Molecular Diagnostics Unit

Female healthcare professional looking through microscope

The Molecular Diagnostics Research Unit specialises in the translation of molecular techniques into clinical practice. Our laboratory is located on the first floor of the Michael Salmon (SAL) Building in Chelmsford and is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities that include a fluorescence activated cell sorter, a range of conventional, real time and digital PCR instruments, imaging equipment, spectrophotometers and tissue culture facilities. It is staffed by molecular and cell biologists that specialise in nucleic acid and protein research and collaborate with a world-wide network of researchers, clinicians and industry partners.

Our main area of interest centres on the conception and rapid development of novel, accurate and cost-effective assays for the early detection of infectious diseases. Our particular focus is on two objectives:

  • the identification of fungal pathogens such as specific species of the genera Aspergillus, Candida, Pneumocystis, Rhizopus and Mucor as well as
  • the creation of tests that anticipate emerging threats from new bacterial antibiotic resistance markers, e.g. MDR-1.

Assays incorporate both nucleic acid- and protein-based detection methods such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) and proximity ligation assays (PLA). Work is carried out in collaboration with academic and commercial partners in the UK, Sweden, Denmark and the USA. We have developed a number of multiplex tests (AspID TM, CandID TM, PneumID TM, ResistID TM) that have been CE-marked, evaluated by UK and international collaborators and are now commercialised.

A second area of awareness has been the identification of predictive biomarkers for improved selection of colorectal cancer patients for anti-cancer treatment as well as development of molecular assays for intraoperative assessment of lymph nodes in breast cancer patients. This work is carried out in close collaboration with Mid-Essex NHS Hospital Trust and The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust.

A third priority concerns our continuing concern with the reliability of biomedical research results. We have long been at the forefront of global collaborative efforts to improve the transparency of reporting of PCR-based experiments and have established an international network of partners which have established appropriate guidelines for publication in the peer-reviewed literature.

Our world-wide collaborators include:

  • Dr Sharon Bahia, Public Health England
  • Dr Andrew Birnie, Cole Palmer
  • Dr Ulf Christensen, Pentabase, Denmark
  • Dr Shula Dawson, LiCor, UK
  • Dr Søren Echwald, Anapa Biotech, Denmark
  • Dr Jim Huggett, University of Surrey and LGC, UK
  • Prof Mikael Kubista, TATAA Biocenter, Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Dr Justin O'Grady, University of East Anglia, UK
  • Dr Tania Nolan, University of Manchester, UK
  • Prof Michael Pfaffl, Technical University Munich, Germany
  • Dr Andrew Rogers, Momentum Bioscience, UK
  • Dr Mike Shannon, Thermofisher, San Francisco, USA
  • Dr Vasi Sundarasan, PAH, Harlow, UK
  • Prof Jo Vandsompele, University of Ghent and Biogazelle, Belgium
  • Dr Carl Wittwer, University of Utah, USA
  • Dr Raif Yuecel, University of Aberdeen, UK
  • Dr Marcus Neusser, BioRad, Germany
  • Prof Larry Wangh, Thermagenix, USA

In addition, we offer projects leading to MSc, MD or PhD degrees and act as a host for biomedical researchers participating in international fellowship schemes.

Key members of staff:

Contact details

Professor Stephen Bustin
Phone: +44 (0) 1245 683570