A pain-free diabetes test developed at the University of Newcastle is set to change millions of lives around the world, after receiving $6 million in funding from the Federal Government to help get the product to market.

Led by Professor Paul Dastoor, a team at the Centre for Organic Electronics worked to create a biosensor which tests saliva for glucose, in place of the traditional finger-prick blood tests used since the 1960s.

The biosensors are the size of a stick of chewing gum and use the reaction between saliva and a natural enzyme to produce an electrical current and detect tiny levels of glucose – and all you have to do is lick it.

“It’s been said that non-invasive glucose testing is the Holy Grail of this entire area,” Prof Dastoor said.

“We have nearly 500 million people with diabetes – and if you’ve got diabetes, you know what you have to do – you have to stab yourself four to ten times a day. What we’ve been able to do now is to develop a technology where you just need to use your saliva.”

The sensors are currently being manufactured on a small-scale at the University, but the technology is printed using electronic ink and has the potential to be produced at a larger scale.

It’s hoped the Federal grant will be enough to get the first manufacturing facility for the sensors up and running, with the production line set to start by at least 2023.

The technology is also the first University of Newcastle invention to show up on an international stock exchange.

Prof Dastoor says he’s “super excited” to see the sensors hit the shelves, as well as their potential to shake up other industries and areas.

“In terms of other applications, this printed biosensor technology is a platform technology,” Prof Dastoor said. 

“For example, we’re already working to with colleagues at Harvard University on a test, if you like, for COVID, for COVID antibodies. And we’re now heading towards tests for biomarkers for cancer, for hormones, and for allergens.”