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

U of T partners with Moderna to advance research in RNA science and technology

April 7, 2022 | Dr. Omar Khan’s lab is creating new nanotechnologies to control and deliver nucleic acids, will lead a team that plans on working with Moderna to develop next-generation vaccine platforms.

BME researcher receiving New Frontiers in Research Fund

December 15, 2021 | Hai-Ling Margaret Cheng was one of the UofT researchers receiving the New Frontiers in Research Fund.

Wheeler Group introduces light-driven micromachines powered by optoelectronic tweezers

September 9, 2021 | In a study published this week in Nature Communications, research from Professor Aaron Wheeler has introduced reconfigurable multi-component micromachines driven by optoelectronic tweezers.

Researchers develop a quantum dot smartphone device to diagnose and track COVID-19

June 11, 2021 | Researchers at the University of Toronto (Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Chemistry, Donnelly Centre for Biomolecular Research) in collaboration with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Public Health Ontario, and Mt. Sinai Hospital have engineered a diagnostic test with a smartphone reader to surveil and track COVID-19 patients.

fluorescence micro chip

U of T researchers develop a new tool for scooping contents of individual cells from their local environment

November 11, 2020 | Scientists can now select individual cells from a population that grows on the surface of a laboratory dish and study their molecular contents. Developed by U of T researchers, the new tool will enable a deeper study of stem cells and other rare cell types for therapy development.

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