Molecular Diagnostics Unit

Female healthcare professional looking through microscope

The Molecular Diagnostics Research Unit specialises in the development of novel molecular techniques and their translation into clinical practice. Our laboratory is located on the second floor of the Michael Salmon (SAL) Building in Chelmsford campus 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.

Our main area of interest centres on the conception and rapid development of innovative, accurate and cost-effective assays for the early detection of infectious diseases. This has resulted in the development and commercialisation of a number of CE-marked PCR-based multiplex tests targeting fungal pathogens (AspID TM, CandIDTM, PneumIDTM, ResistIDTM).

Since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 as the causative agent of COVID-19, we have developed a novel five-plex RT-qPCR kit which can detect single copies of the virus in 15 minutes. The test includes an assay that confirms the presence of human nucleic acid in a patient sample and a quantified artificial RNA control to allow accurate viral load determination. We have also developed a rapid (<10 minutes) pathogen RNA extraction, enrichment and DNA conversion protocol from human saliva and intend to incorporate this into an extreme PCR point-of-care device that can generate test results within 5 minutes of sample acquisition.

More generally, we are interested in using other nucleic-acid amplification tests, such as isothermal amplification methods or digital, multiplexed measurements of gene expression, as well as protein-based detection methodologies, for example the proximity ligation assays (PLA) and applying them to the analysis of gene expression in wound-healing, chronic ulceration and fibrosis. We have a world-wide network of academic, clinical and industrial collaborators and run physical and virtual workshops and seminars aimed at educating the next generation of scientists.

An additional priority for us is the 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 through MIQE and dMIQE guidelines and have established an international network of partners which have established appropriate guidelines for publication in the peer-reviewed literature.

Key members of staff:

Contact details

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