Dr Joanne Macdonald


One of the brightest minds in the field of diagnostic disease research and development, Dr Joanne Macdonald heads up BioCifer’s scientific research. Joanne has a remarkable record in successful scientific breakthroughs and discoveries and her world-leading work has seen her nominated for a Pride of Australia award.

Joanne earned her degrees and PhD at the University of Queensland, before spending ten years at Columbia University in New York, working with some of the most respected epidemiologists in the United States. Under their guidance Joanne codeveloped a computer made from strands of DNA, which was able to play the strategy game tic-tac-toe interactively against a human. She also coengineered an enzyme for the treatment of cocaine overdose, which completed Phase II clinical trials and received Breakthrough Drug Therapy Status from the FDA (USA).

While working at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Joanne was recruited to lead an international collaboration of researchers which travelled to Brazil to develop a rapid Zika virus diagnostic test. Joanne’s work has attracted the attention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which bestowed her with a grant to develop a world-first rapid test kit for pathogens such as malaria in mosquitoes.

Since 2012 Joanne has worked in Australia to focus her research on reproducing the detection sensitivity of state-of-the-art labs in a cost-effective and portable biosensing diagnostic device.

This led to the successful breakthrough of BioCifer’s novel and disruptive diagnostic testing technology which quickly detects disease genetic markers in bacteria, parasites and viruses. Joanne was instrumental in establishing BioCifer to enable the manufacture and distribution of this testing technology – and to ultimately reduce the personal suffering and economic burden caused by delays in waiting for disease testing results.

Further Credentials

Joanne has a PhD in Microbiology (University of Queensland) and further virology training through the Mailman School of Public Health (Columbia University). Her visionary molecular research led to her appointment as Assistant Professor in Clinical Medical Sciences (Division of Experimental Therapeutics, Columbia University), and Associate Professor, Molecular Engineering (University of the Sunshine Coast). She has attracted over $12 million funding, accumulated 13 granted patents and over 50 publications that have been referred to by other articles more than 1250 times. Her outstanding achievements were recognised in 2016 by Life Sciences Queensland when she received the Rose-Anne Kelso Commemorative Award for Women in 2016, sponsored by Stockwell. In addition, in late 2019 she was elected Chair of the Virology Special Interest Group for the Australian Society of Microbiology (ASM), where she has assisted with conveying important public health messages in response to COVID-19.

Our Collaboration Partners

UQ, CSIRO, ANU, DMTC, USC, QIMR Berghofer and others