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Research highlights

Home > Our research > Research Highlights

Below you can find highlights of some of our most recent research accomplishments. Watch this space for more spotlights on our exciting interdisciplinary research.

Can digital resources for HIV provide appropriate emotional support?

Research from i-sense members at UCL seeks to understand whether currently available digital health technologies and online information related to HIV offers adequate emotional support.

* Singh, A., Gibbs, J., and Blandford, A. 'Emotion and Experience in Negotiating HIV-Related Digital Resources: "It's not just a runny nose!"' CHI '19 Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Paper No. 599 (2019); DOI: 10.1145/3290605.3300829


Collaborative study shows promising results for colon cancer diagnostic

A simple and sensitive test developed by i-sense engineers at Imperial College London, in collaboration with MIT, has produced a colour change in urine to signal growing tumours in mice.

* Loynachan, C. N., Soleimany, A. P., Dudani, J. S., Lin, Y., Najer, A., Bekdemir, A., Chen, Q., Bhatia, S. N., and Stevens, M. M. 'Renal clearable catalytic gold nanoclusters for in vivo disease monitoring.' Nature Nanotechnology (2019); DOI:

REASSURED diagnostics to strengthen health systems and improve patient outcomes

In light of technology advances, a publication in Nature Microbiologyupdates the current benchmark that describes the ideal diagnostic test, taking into consideration the need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and leave no one behind.

* Land, K. J., Boeras, D. I., Chen, X., Ramsay, A. R., and Peeling, R. W. 'REASSURED diagnostics to inform disease control strategies, strengthen health systems and improve patient outcomes.' Nature Microbiology (2019); DOI:

Can data visualisation help inform health interventions?

New research from i-sense members at UCL, in collaboration with the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), looks at ways data visualisation can help population surveillance sites better utilise and understand the large amounts of data they collect for disease surveillance.

* Concannon, D., Herbst, K., and Manley, E. 'Developing a Data Dashboard Framework for Population Health Surveillance: Widening Access to Clinical Trial Findings' JMIR Formative Research (2019); DOI: doi:10.2196/11342Zou, B., Lampos, V., and Cox, I. J. 'Transfer Learning for Unsupervised Influenza-like Illness Models from Online Search Data' WWW '19 The World Wide Web Conference (2019); DOI: 10.1145/3308558.3313477

Bringing dengue diagnostics into the twenty-first century

A recent study, published in Journal of Virological Methods, suggests and evaluates a modification to a currently used lab-based diagnostic test for dengue. The improved test has shown it can reduce the likelihood of false negatives and increase identification of a specific type of the virus.

* Gray, E. R., Heaney, J., Ferns, R. R., Sequeira, P. C., Nastouli, E., and Garson, J. A. 'Minor groove binder modification of widely used TaqMan hydrolysis probe for detection of dengue virus reduces risk of false-negative real-time PCR results for serotype 4' Journal of Virological Methods (2019); DOI: 10.1016/j.jviromet.2019.03.006

p24 revisited: reassessing an old candidate for HIV diagnosis

new review from i-sense members, published in AIDS, looks at the last 20 years of research around diagnostics that use p24, an important protein in the detection of early stage HIV.

* Gray, E. R., Bain, R., Varsaneux, O., Peeling, R., Stevens, M. M., and McKendry, R. A. 'p24 revisited: a landscape review of antigen detection for early HIV diagnosis.' AIDS (2018); DOI: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001982

New connected test for HIV shows promising results

Research from the i-sense McKendry group at UCL, published in Digital Medicine, reports a pilot clinical study using a shear horizontal surface acoustic wave (SH-SAW) biosensors based on low-cost components found in smartphones to diagnose HIV in 133 patients.

* Gray, E. R., Turbe, V., Lawson, V. E., Page, R. H., Cook, Z. C., Ferns, R. B., Nasouli, E., Pillay, D., Yatsuda, H., Athey, D., and McKendry, R. A. 'Ultra-rapid, sensitive and specific digital diagnosis of HIV with a dual-channel SAW biosensor in a pilot clinical study' Digital Medicine (2018); DOI: 10.1038/s41746-018-0041-5

Can Google help to assess the impact of heatwaves on the health of the population?

Research from Public Health England and members of i-sense at UCL, published in Environmental Research, suggests that monitoring online search terms related to the health impact of heatwaves could help contribute to public health surveillance systems in the UK and have potential benefits for countries that lack established public health surveillance systems.

* Green, H. K., Edeghere, O., Elliot, A. J., Cox, I. J., Morbey, Pebody, P., Bones, A., McKendry, R. A., Smith, G. E. ‘Google search patterns monitoring the daily health impact of heatwaves in England: how do the findings compare to established syndromic surveillance systems from 2013 to 2017?’ Environmental Research (2018); DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.04.002

Privacy Rights and Public Information

In their newly published article, Privacy Rights and Public Information, which was published in The Journal of Political Philosophy, Benedict Rumbold and James Wilson seek to explore the right to privacy for an individual when they have made information public.

* Rumbold, B., Wenham., C., Wilson, J. 'Self-tests for influenza: an empirical ethics investigation' BMC Medical Ethics (2017); DOI: 10.1186/s12910-017-0192-y

Promising new technology for diagnosing immunity to Ebola

New research from i-sense at Imperial College London and UCL provides a promising new approach to detecting immunity to Ebola virus infection.

* Brangel, P., Sobarzo, A., Parolo, C., Miller, B.S., Howes, P.D., Gelkop, S., Lutwama, J.J., Dye, J.M., McKendry, R.A., Lobel, L., Stevens, M.M. 'A Serological Point-of-Care Test for the Detection of IgG Antibodies against Ebola Virus in Human Survivors' ACS Nano (2018); DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b07021

HIV test for early stage infections surpasses gold standard

i-sense researchers from Imperial College London and UCL have recently published landmark research on the development of a paper-based point-of-care test for HIV that surpasses the sensitivity of the current industrial gold standard for detection of p24, an early biomarker for HIV.

* Loynachan, C.N., Thomas, M.R., Gray, E.R., Richards, D.A., Kim, J., Miller, B.S., Brookes, J.C., Agarwal, S., Chudasama, V., McKendry, R.A., Stevens, M.M. 'Platinum Nanocatalyst Amplification: Redefining the Gold Standard for Lateral Flow Immunoassays with Ultrabroad Dynamic Range' ACS Nano (2017); DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b06229

Diagnosing HIV at record speeds

Research from i-sense, published in Scientific Reports, shows promising developments towards a mobile phone-connected diagnostic tool that can detect HIV within seconds.

* Turbé, V., Gray, E. R., Lawson, V. E., Nastouli, E., Brookes, J. C., Weiss, R. A., Pillay, D., Emery, V. C., Verrips, C. T., Yatsuda, H., Athey, D., McKendry, R. A. Towards an ultra-rapid smartphone- connected test for infectious diseases​' Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 11971 (2017); DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-11887-6

Are existing apps and online health resources appropriate for people seeking information about HIV testing and care?

Published in the ACM Library in July 2017research by members of i-sense at UCL and Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) looks into widely available online resources that provide information, advice and care for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV. 

* Singh, A., Gibbs, J., Estcourt, C., Sonnenberg, Pam., Blandford, A. 'Are HIV Smartphone Apps and Online Interventions Fit for Purpose?' Proceedings of the 2017 International Conference on Digital Health (2017); DOI: 10.1145/3079452.3079469

Collaborative research explores why llamas could change the future for HIV diagnostics

Interdisciplinary research from i-sense at UCL and published in ACS Infectious Diseases in June 2017, explores the potentially important role llamas and their family (camelids) could play in developing tools to detect early stage HIV.

* Gray, E.R., Brookes, J.C., Caillat, C., Turbe, V., Webb, B.L., Granger, L.A., Miller, B.S., McCoy, L.E., El Khattabi, M., Verrips, C.T., Weiss, R.A., Duffy, D.M., Weissenhorn, W., McKendry, R.A. 'Unravelling the molecular basis of high affinity nanobodies against HIV p24: in vitro functional, structural and in silico insights.' ACS Infectious Diseases (2017); DOI: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.6b00189


Fluorescent nanomaterials for early TB diagnosis

i-sense researchers are developing a new way to rapidly detect genetic barcodes for tuberculosis in the blood.

* Gliddon, H.D., Howes, P.D., Kaforou, M., Levin, M., Stevens, M.M. 'A nucleic acid strand displacement system for the multiplexed detection of tuberculosis-specific mRNA using quantum dots' Nanoscale (2016); DOI: 10.1039/C6NR00484A

Google Flu Trends revisited: Improving influenza modelling from search query logs

The latest research from i-sense's collaboration with Google to develop the Google Flu Trends model and support a more accurate picture of influenza-like illness in the UK.

Lampos, V., Miller, A.C., Crossan, S., Stefansen, C. 'Advances in nowcasting influenza-like influenza rates using search query logs', Scientific Reports (2015)

Assessing the impact of health interventions using Internet data

i-sense, UCL, Public Health England (PHE) and Microsoft researchers have proven the effectiveness of LAIV, an England-wide flu vaccination programme, by analysing tweets and Bing search queries.

* Lampos, V., Yom-Tov, E., Pebody, R. & Cox, I.J. 'Assessing the impact of a health intervention via user-generated Internet content' Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery (2015)

BMJ Blogs: How effective is this year's flu vaccine?

i-sense's Flusurvey collaborators Clare Wenham and John Edmunds discuss the evidence and suggest that the influenza vaccine may have been more effective during 2014's flu season, than previously estimated.

Wenham, C. and Edmunds, J. 'How effective is this year's flu vaccine' BMJ Blogs, (2015)

Colloidal nanoparticles as advanced biological sensors

A comprehensive overview of the use of specialised nanomaterials as diagnostic tools and their applications in the global healthcare system by i-sense and Imperial College researchers.* 

* Howes, P.D. et al, 'Colloidal nanoparticles as advanced biological sensors' Science, 346, 1247390–1247390 (2014); DOI: 10.1126/science.1247390

Plasmonic nanomaterials for biodiagnostics

i-sense and Imperial College researchers discuss the state of the art in biosensors, based on plasmonic nanomaterials. which are capable of detecting specific biomarkers corresponding to various disease states.*

* Howes, P.D. et al, 'Plasmonic Nanomaterials for Biodiagnostics' Chem. Soc. Rev., 43, 3835–3853 (2014); DOI: 10.1039/C3CS60346F

Detecting Disease Outbreaks in Mass Gatherings Using Internet Data

Microsoft, UCL and i-sense researchers investigate how Twitter and search engine data generated at mass gatherings, such as music festivals, can alert to possible outbreaks of infectious diseases more rapidly than traditional health surveillance.*

* Yom-Tov, E. et al, 'Detecting Disease Outbreaks in Mass Gatherings Using Internet Data' Journal of Medical Internet Research16(6):e154, (2014); DOI: 10.2196/jmir.315

Understanding antibiotic resistance through nanomechanical cantilevers

A novel method for the rapid and ultrasensitive detection of antibiotics in the blood, paving the way for applications within drug development and personalised medicine.*

* Ndieyira, J. W. et al, 'Surface-stress sensors for rapid and ultrasensitive detection of active free drugs in human serum' Nature Nanotechnology9, 225–232 (2014); DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2014