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Molecular Diagnostics Unit

Female healthcare professional looking through microscope

Reverse transcription and polymerase chain reaction are ubiquitous methods in use for over 40 and 30 years, respectively. Despite significant advances in chemistry, instrumentation, assay design and oligonucleotide synthesis the basic protocols used to generate and amplify RNA have changed relatively little over that time.

We are developing innovative methodologies to both, which we believe will transform the way both methods will be used in future, especially as tools in molecular diagnostics.

The Molecular Diagnostics Unit is part of ARU's Medical Technology Research Centre.

Academic staff

Prof Stephen Bustin is Professor of Molecular Medicine in the School of Allied Health and Social Care. His research interests centre around developing novel approaches for the early diagnosis of infectious diseases.

Prof Philip Debruyne is Honorary Visiting Professor in the School of Life Sciences. He is a medical oncologist and clinical pharmacologist with research interests in the fields of ageing and cancer. He is interested in the optimisation of geriatric assessment in cancer patients (to evaluate vulnerabilities), the inclusion of vulnerable cancer patients (such as the elderly) in clinical trials, and the implementation of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to deal with psychosocial survivorship issues in cancer survivors.

Dr Matt Bristow is Associate Professor in Biopsychology in the School of Psychology and Sport Science, and the Lab Director for the ARU Biomarker Lab. The Lab analyses hair and saliva samples for hormones and biomarkers, such as cortisol. Established in 2005 in Cambridge, the Lab holds a UK Human Tissue Authority license and is the only Salimetrics approved centre of excellence for testing in the UK. Matt has worked closely with Salimetrics, world leaders in saliva analysis, for a number of years.

Other members of the Molecular Diagnostics Unit are:

Read more about academic staff.

PhD students

  • Laura Tack (AZ Groeninge, Kortrijk, Belgium)

  • Combined extraction, enrichment and reverse transcription of SARS-CoV2 RNA
  • Extreme PCR assay development for detection of SARS-CoV2
  • Identification of ‘subclinical’ infection in the deep tissues in chronic leg ulcers
  • Optimisation of comprehensive geriatric assessment (CGA) in oncology
  • Clinical cancer research in vulnerable populations
  • Implementation of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) in psycho-social oncology
  • Developing a saliva assay for the detection of oxytocin (Winner, Vice Chancellor's Award for Business Collaboration 2021)
  • Extending and developing hair analysis techniques - animals, testosterone, use of grinding.

  • Mr Fortune Iwuagwu - Mid Essex NHS Hospitals Trust, Chelmsford
  • Dr Jim Huggett - University of Surrey and LGC
  • Dr Vasi Sundarasan- PAH, Harlow, UK
  • Prof Mikael Kubista - TATAA Biocenter, Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Prof Chris Parris - ARU
  • Prof Pat Schofield - University of Plymouth
  • Prof Tom Boterberg, Prof Sylvie Rottey - University of Ghent, Belgium
  • Prof Hans Wildiers, Prof Benoit Beuselinck, Dr Cindy Kenis - University of Leuven, Belgium
  • Dr Kate Fife - Cambridge University Hospital NHS Trust
  • Prof Rob J. Jones - University of Glasgow
  • BSMO Survivorship Task Force:
    • Dr Christine Langenaeken - AZ Klina, Brasschaat, Belgium
    • Prof Jeroen Mebis - Jessa Hospital & Hasselt University, Hasselt, Belgium
    • Dr Christel Fontaine - Brussels University Hospital, Brussels, Belgium
    • Dr Florence Van Ryckeghem - AZ Glorieux, Ronse, Belgium
  • Mrs Kathleen Meryck, independent EFT practitioner, London, UK
  • Salimetrics, LLC. California
  • Stratech, UK

The ARU Biomarker Lab works with universities worldwide, large pharmaceutical companies, research institutes, and start-up companies. We also work with psychologists, vets, sports and sleep scientists. Please contact the Biomarker Lab for more details.

Bivins, A., Kaya, D., Bibby, K., Simpson, S. L., Bustin, S. A., Shanks, O. C., Ahmed, W., 2021. Variability in RT-qPCR assay parameters indicates unreliable SARS-CoV-2 RNA quantification for wastewater surveillance. Water Res., 203, 117516.

Bustin, S., Kirvell, S., Huggett, J. F., Nolan, T., 2021. RT-qPCR Diagnostics: The “Drosten” SARS-CoV-2 Assay Paradigm. Int. J. Mol. Sci., 22, 8702.

Whale, A. S., von der Heide, E. K., Kohlenberg, M., Brinckmann, A., Baedker, S., Karalay, O., Fernandez-Gonzalez, A., Busby, E. J., Bustin, S. A., Hauser, H., Missel, A., O'Sullivan, D. M., Huggett, J. F., Pfaffl, M. W., Nolan, T., 2021. Digital PCR can augment the interpretation of RT-qPCR Cq values for SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics. Methods, 26, S1046-2023(21)00204-8. PMID: 34454016

Tack, L., Lefebvre, T., Lycke, M., Langenaeken, C., Fontaine, C., Borms, M., Hanssens, M., Knops, C., Meryck, K., Boterberg, T., Pottel, H., Schofield, P., Debruyne, P. R., 2021. A randomised wait-list controlled trial to evaluate Emotional Freedom Techniques for self-reported cancer-related cognitive impairment in cancer survivors (EMOTICON). EClinicalMedicine, 39, 101081. doi: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.101081

Rippon, D., McDonnell, A., Bristow, M., Smith, M. A., McCreadie, M., Wetherell, M. A., 2021. Elevated levels of hair cortisol concentrations in professional dementia caregivers. Stress. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34392773. doi: 10.1080/10253890.2021.1968821

Hill, D., Conner, M., Clancy, F., Moss, R., Wilding, S., Bristow, M., O'Connor, D. B., 2021. Stress and eating behaviours in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Health Psychol. Rev.. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33913377. doi: 10.1080/17437199.2021.1923406

Bustin, S., Coward, A., Sadler, G., Teare, L., Nolan, T., 2020. CoV2-ID, a MIQE-compliant sub-20-min 5-plex RT-PCR assay targeting SARS-CoV-2 for the diagnosis of COVID-19. Sci. Rep., 10(1), 22214.

Tack, L., Lefebvre, T., Lycke, M., Pottel, L., Cool, L., Ketelaars, L., De Zutter, J., Martens, E., Pottel, H., Stellamans, K., Van Eygen, K., Werbrouck, P., Vergauwe, P., Wildiers, H., Schofield, P., Boterberg, T., Debruyne, P. R., 2020. Underrepresentation of vulnerable older patients with cancer in phase II and III oncology registration trials: a case-control study. J. Geriatr. Oncol., 11(2), pp. 320-326.

Lycke, M., Martens, E., Ketelaars, L., Dezutter, J., Lefebvre, T., Pottel, H., Van Eygen, K., Cool, L., Schofield, P., Boterberg, T., Debruyne, P. R., 2019. Detection of alcohol abuse in older patients with cancer: the integration of alcohol screening questionnaires in the CGA. J. Geriatr. Oncol., 10(5), pp. 819-823.

Dhillon, H. S., Johnson, G., Shannon, M., Greenwood, C., Roberts, D., Bustin, S., 2016. Homogeneous and digital proximity ligation assays for the detection of Clostridium difficile toxins A and B. Biomol. Detect. Quantif., 10:2-8.

Read more about publications.

Contact us

For more information and to get involved, email [email protected]

You can also follow the Biomarker Lab on Twitter or connect with the Biomarker Lab on LinkedIn.