University signs precision-medicine research partnership with Bruker

13 February 2024
Agreement to help strengthen Australia's nano-biotechnology capability
The strategic partnership will place the University of Sydney in a leading position internationally to advance nanomedicine, gene therapies and the early detection, treatment and prevention of disease.

NanoWizard ULTRA Speed 3.. The University of Sydney will become home to two atomic force microscopes under a new partnership with Bruker to power innovation in nanomedicine. Bruker will provide resourcing to support collaborative research led by Dr David Martinez Martin as part of a bilateral commitment to advancing nanomedicine. Image courtesy of Bruker BioAFM.

Imagine a future where samples as tiny as single cells or clusters of molecules can lead to medical diagnoses, and treatments are tailored specifically to your body. Known as precision medicine, it’s the ultimate in bespoke health service—and it’s on the horizon. 

Researchers at the University of Sydney have taken a significant stride forward in precision medicine, with the University today announcing a five-year research partnership with Bruker, a world-leading manufacturer of high-performance scientific instruments. 

Under the partnership, the University will acquire two atomic force microscopes made by Bruker to add to its world-class research facilities. The new-generation microscopes are being installed this month. 

The first of their kind in Australia, the systems are customised to perform the highest resolution imaging of living biological samples, visualise dynamic molecular mechanisms and quantify cellular and biomolecular interactions. Advanced automation capabilities make them ideal for biomedical and preclinical research.

As part of the University’s core research facilities, the microscopes will be available for hire to industry partners and to support research.

The driving force behind the partnership is Dr David Martinez Martin, Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Sydney. He said: “This kind of genuine, innovative collaboration between academia and industry is essential to address societal challenges in the area of health and beyond.” 

Nanotechnology innovation

Dr David Martinez Martin is an accomplished innovator who holds 19 granted patents, 17 of which have been licensed or assigned to industry. Image: University of Sydney

An accomplished physicist and innovator, Dr Martinez Martin is a globally recognised inventor of new technologies, and has had a long-standing collaboration with Bruker in the atomic force microscopy area. 

He said: “I started collaborating with Bruker’s team about a decade ago to boost the performance of atomic force microscopes. Working with industry exposed me to perspectives outside of academia that are highly beneficial for developing impactful research and enriched me significantly as a researcher and innovator.” 

The University’s investment in the partnership will boost Dr Martinez Martin’s work and place the University of Sydney in a leading position internationally to advance nanomedicine, gene therapies and the early detection, treatment and prevention of disease. As part of the collaboration, Bruker will provide resourcing to support collaborative nanotechnology projects driven by Dr David Martinez Martin.

Atomic force microscopy allows scientists to analyse and manipulate live cells and materials at the nanoscale, even molecule by molecule. It can also enable the identification of new biomarkers, or biological signatures, of a range of infectious diseases and cancers.  

It does this by using a laser to measure the physical interaction of the microscope’s sensor with a sample at the scale of a billionth of a metre.

“It's great to see my work seeding a larger partnership to support advanced research in nanomedicine and atomic force microscopy. I’m grateful to my University colleagues and to Bruker for making this partnership a reality," said Dr Martinez Martin.

Professor Simon Ringer, Pro Vice Chancellor (Research Infrastructure), an architect of the Universitys Strategic Partnerships Policy, said: “These capabilities will bring our community to the frontiers of nanomedicine and nanofabrication, which are the foundations of next-generation precision medicines. The potential for societal benefits from this partnership in terms of health advances are impressive and exciting.”

Research and development access

Bacteriophage Phi29. It is a virus that infects bacteria. It is also among the smallest viruses known. It has an equatorial diameter (width) of approximately 45 nanometres. Image acquired in liquid environment with atomic force microscopy by Dr David Martinez-Martin.

The new atomic force microscopes will be housed on the University of Sydney’s Camperdown campus within Sydney Microscopy and Microanalysis, an open-access core research facility where Dr Martinez Martin is Deputy Director. Sydney Microscopy and Microanalysis hosts a range of nanotechnology instrumentation and is one of eight core research facilities at the University that are open to industry usage and partnerships.

Director of Sydney Microscopy and Microanalysis, Associate Professor Filip Braet, said: “Embedding these first-in-Australia microscopes within our core research facilities will ensure that they are available to any researchers who need them, paving the way for exciting homegrown discoveries across a range of different projects and scientific disciplines.” 

Dr Martinez Martin is excited by the potential that the atomic force microscopes offer. “As someone with a track record as an inventor and innovator, I can confidently say that this partnership with Bruker will strengthen our health and nanotechnology innovation ecosystems. The future of medicine and nanotechnology is exciting, and this partnership will empower us to create it.” 


  • Sydney Microscopy and Microanalysis (SMM) is one of eight Core Research Facilities at the University of Sydney. It provides researchers and industry with access to high-end microscopy infrastructure and related expertise, enabling insights into how materials work at the scale of living cells, molecules, crystals and even individual atoms. 
  • SMM is one of the largest and most comprehensive facilities of its kind in the world. It is a node of Microscopy Australia, a consortium of university-based microscopy facilities supported by the Australian government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).   
  • Dr David Martinez Martin is a physicist and innovator who holds 19 granted patents (18 as principal inventor and 1 as co-principal inventor), 17 of which have been licensed or assigned to industry. He is renowned for the invention of a commercial technology called picobalance, which measures the mass of living cells in real time. In 2022 he was distinguished as a leading young changemaker by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
  • Professor Simon Ringer is the University of Sydney’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research Infrastructure) and leads the University’s strategy, policy and advice relating to research infrastructure, research technology services, and research space management. 
  • Bruker is a world-leading manufacturer of analytical instrumentation, diagnostic solutions and nano-analysistools, providing high-performance systems for cell biology, preclinical imaging, and molecular pathology research. Bruker BioAFM develops and manufactures Atomic Force Microscopes (AFM) and Optical Tweezers, with a particular focus on applications in biomedical and life science research. 

Luisa Low

Media and PR Adviser (Engineering & IT)

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