A Griffith University researcher who aims to bridge the gap for rural and regional communities via accessible healthcare delivery has been named among the nation’s best as a 2023 Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) Fellow.
Professor Chamindie Punyadeera, a research leader at the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (GRIDD) and Menzies Health Institute Queensland, is one of only 33 ATSE Fellows among the distinguished cohort to be elected this year.
She joins the company of a Nobel prize laureate, leaders tackling the Aussie engineering shortage, climate change innovators, research translation superstars and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander STEM education champions who were also named as 2023 Fellows.
The 2023 new ATSE Fellows have been chosen for their game-changing contributions in fields spanning artificial intelligence, marine biology, photonics, cancer therapy, battery and energy innovation, and more.
Professor Punyadeera is a translational scientist at the interface of biomedicine and engineering. Her cutting-edge research and transformative applications have real-world impact.
Professor Punyadeera is a global authority on saliva-based diagnostics. She led the development and commercialisation of the world’s first saliva-based test for early diagnosis of head and neck cancers, CancerDetect, helping more than one million patients worldwide.
At the helm of a multidisciplinary team, Professor Punyadeera is leading the development of non-invasive technologies, including wearable diagnostics and biosensors.
She is also a passionate advocate for women in STEM, initiating a program to support women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds through Women in Technology.
“What we’re trying to do is to bridge the gap in healthcare delivery, meaning people in the remote and rural areas of Australia can access the same facilities as a person living in the city,” Professor Punyadeera said.
“We can bridge the healthcare disparity by developing non-invasive, easy, accessible diagnostics – hence, we are using saliva samples.
“So anyone in remote communities can collect a saliva sample and send it to a central lab for testing.
“Saliva diagnostics is helping clinicians investigate head and neck cancers. These are the seven most common cancers and because these cancers occur in the mouth area, the first proxy to release biomarkers is saliva.
“So we using saliva as a diagnostic medium for early detection, prediction outcome and monitoring patients.”
Professor Punyadeera thanks Professor Emeritus Ron Quinn, a renowned GRIDD researcher, for encouraging her to apply.
ATSE President Dr Katherine Woodthorpe AO FTSE said the new Fellows are creating a better Australia through their work.
“As we face global challenges such as climate change, the digitisation of our economy and the massive challenge of building a diverse and skilled STEM workforce, technological innovation is the lynchpin for shaping our future. It’s looking bright thanks to the extraordinary contributions of our 33 newest Fellows.”
“It is a proud moment to be elected by your peers and acknowledged for your lifelong achievements. ATSE Fellows are truly exceptional at what they do, and Australia is all the better for them.”