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:


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

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

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

New evidence on factors that promote bone mineralization – U of T researchers find

August 21, 2020 | A research team led by Dr. Eli Sone (BME, MSE, Dentistry) has discovered a new role in mineralization played by a class of molecules, glycosaminoglycans (GAGs)

Six U of T Engineering projects receive funding boost for state-of-the-art research tools

August 19, 2020 | Six U of T Engineering researchers to receive funding through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF).

How to get more cancer-fighting nanoparticles to where they are needed

August 10, 2020 | U of T Engineering researchers have discovered a dose threshold that greatly increases the delivery of cancer-fighting drugs into a tumour.

New ‘rock candy’ approach could lead to simpler, faster tests for COVID-19

May 4, 2020 | Testing for viruses is not a new science, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the bottlenecks in established methods. Now, a team led by Professor Leo Chou (IBBME) is pursuing a non-traditional approach that, if successful, could lead to simpler, faster tests.

Meet Donnelly Centre Team Developing on-the-go Test for COVID-19

April 22, 2020 | While most people are sheltering at home, for a team led by Professor Warren Chan it’s business as usual as they continue to develop an automated, more sensitive and rapid test for COVID-19 to help curb the pandemic.

U of T precision medicine initiative launches task force to fight COVID-19

April 17, 2020 | The PRiME Task Force on Advanced Diagnostics and Therapeutics for COVID-19 brings together U of T researchers with expertise in a variety of fields to develop new diagnostic tools and therapeutics

Review paper summarizes diagnostic tools and surveillance for COVID19

April 07, 2020 | Prof. Warren Chan, Dr. Samira Mubareka, Dr. Jonathan Gubbay and their trainees have summarized current diagnostic tools for detecting and surveilling COVID-19 in the journal ACS Nano. This article aims to guide researchers in developing COVID19 diagnostics by discussing current and emerging diagnostic tools.

Engineering alumni startup Nanoleaf to source more than one million masks amid COVID-19 shortages

April 01, 2020 | Engineering alumni startup Nanoleaf to source more than one million masks amid COVID-19 shortages

IBBME researchers develop pill-sized heating device for diagnostic testing

February 17, 2020 | IBBME researchers develop pill-sized heating device for diagnostic testing

Most Engineered Nanoparticles Enter Tumours Through Cells, Not Between them, U of T Researchers Find

January 13, 2020 | University of Toronto researchers have discovered that an active rather than passive process dictates which nanoparticles enter solid tumours, upending decades of thinking in the field of cancer nanomedicine and pointing toward more effective nanotherapies.