Amplify: 1 - 9 June 2017


Jake Parker

‘Exploring the protein universe - building cyborg cells’

Research summary:

A diabetic with an insulin pump has a biosensor to measure glucose cells and then inject insulin when needed. This is a primitive form of cyborg, i.e., human cells and machines interacting. The number of disease and treatments which could be similarly transformed from a multi-day, multi-appointment ordeal into a continuously detected and medicated point of care test is large, but current testing methods of biosensors are slow, expensive and require individuals to visit a hospital or doctor in order to be tested. Jake's research looks to push the frontier of what is currently possible in sensing and interacting with human cells, by using computational methods to design protein components of biosensors, then rationally test them for use in point of care diagnostics. Essentially, Jake is looking at ways we can better understand the process of molecular recognition, by developing a pipeline for rational design and testing of biosensor components. His research looks to transform how healthcare is monitored and administered, ultimately reducing the burden on hospitals and the public healthcare system.


As a young reader of science-fiction, both Jake’s curiosity and imagination were piqued. This led him on a life-long journey to seek knowledge and dream of the future. Jake graduated from the University of Adelaide with a double degree in Science and Law, pursuing a science honours in computational biology, followed by an internship at IBM Research. Returning to his sci-fi origins, Jake has since moved toward the field of synthetic biology, pursuing a PhD at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, where he seeks to understand the fundamental forces driving cellular machines in order to build point of care diagnostics and ultimately, cyborgs! Jake has an active interest in biotech and the Australian start-up scene, having recently returned from an entrepreneur programme in China, thanks to UQ Idea Hub. While in Shanghai Jake worked at 23Seed, a seed fund and accelerator, where he learnt about raising capital and evaluating businesses for early stage investment. This exposure has helped him in the role of chair for the commercialisation Launchpad at IMB (CLIMB), a new, grassroots initiative which aims to develop a culture and framework for research commercialisation at the IMB.