Molecular Engineering

Molecular engineering aims to advance disease detection, customize drug delivery and improve health-care outcomes with faster and more precise technologies and systems.

Check out the case studies below to learn about the exciting research done here at BME:


Warren Chan in a lab with a graduate student
Shape-shifting nanoparticles for delivering cancer drugs to tumours

Chemotherapy isn’t supposed to make your hair fall out — it’s supposed to kill cancer cells.

Professor Warren Chan’s Integrated Nanotechnology & Biomedical Sciences Laboratory builds targeted drug delivery systems designed to enter specific areas of your body. He and his team have created a set of nanoparticles attached to strands of DNA that function like a protein, but can be programmed to change shape and chemistry, allowing them to navigate through the traps in the body and gain access into diseased tissue.

Their discovery will lead to further advances in personalized nanomedicine — enabling tailored particles to deliver drugs into targeted types of tumours, and nowhere else.

Molecular Imaging

Margaret Cheng in a lab with graduate students
Smarter scans for earlier cancer detection

Professor Hai-Ling Margaret Cheng was working as an electrical engineer in the aerospace and defense industry when she realized the signal-processing techniques she was using could also enhance magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Today, her team is dedicated to improving MRI technology. Specifically, the Cheng Lab looks at ways to modify and enhance chemicals that give off a strong magnetic resonance signal, known as contrast agents, to accentuate visual accuracy of specific tissues and organs. Her lab is also developing novel, rapid imaging approaches to give us information about tissue physiology and functional dynamics.

Her developments in this area have proven promising in earlier cancer detection and stem cell observations for human tissue repair.

Systems Biology

Aaron Wheeler in a lab with graduate students
Shrinking the lab—mini diagnostic tools for rapid, on-site results

Professor Aaron Wheeler is taking the lab to you.

His team builds miniature labs using digital microfluidics — a liquid-handling technology that can analyze tiny drops of chemical and biological fluids on site. Using electrostatic forces, their lab-on-a-chip device can manipulate these samples and probe them with built-in sensors for rapid analysis, all on something the size of a credit card.

The technology aims to allow advanced diagnostic tests to be performed at a patient’s bedside or in remote places around the world to give accurate results in less time.

Read more news about molecular engineering

Two BME faculty members were awarded the Accelerate Seed Grant and Accelerate Moonshot grant

Milica Radisic and Leo Chou are two BME faculty members who were awarded the Accelerate Seed Grant and Accelerate Moonshot grant, as a part of a $1.2 million total funding from the Acceleration Consortium

‘Images every second’: Researchers develop rapid MRI technique for better cancer detection and therapy

Professor Hai-Ling Cheng and her team have developed a rapid magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique to help doctors better detect and diagnose tumours. The 3D images generated from this new approach could provide physicians with guidance during surgery and other therapeutic interventions.

Four Biomedical Engineering Faculty Members Secure CIHR Funding for Research Projects

Four esteemed faculty members from the Institute Biomedical Engineering (BME) at the University of Toronto have successfully secured funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) through the Project Grant Program’s fall 2023 funding cycle. The CIHR funding will support their cutting-edge research projects aimed at advancing health-related knowledge and outcomes.

Revolutionizing Microbial Single-Cell Sequencing: DoTA-seq Unveils a Simple Yet Powerful Method 

In a recent study, a research team led by Dr. Freeman Lan has developed a method for single-cell genetic profiling of microbes. The findings, published in Nature Methods, introduce a robust and easily adaptable droplet microfluidics workflow named DoTA-seq (Droplet Microfluidics for Targeted Amplification Sequencing), providing a scalable solution for studying single-cell heterogeneity in microbial populations. 

Researchers use generative AI to design new viral vector subspecies for gene therapy delivery

Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering have successfully utilized an artificial intelligence (AI) framework to redesign a crucial protein involved in the delivery of gene therapy.

‘DNA origami’ may bring researchers one step closer to a cancer vaccine

BME professor Leo Chou creates DNA nanostructures that can serve as a platform to deliver instructions to a body’s immune cells in a way that would elicit an effective response towards a disease. His team has developed a new way to visualize 3D nanostructures made of human DNA.