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Warren Chan

AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2014
For outstanding contributions to nanomedicine, especially to the pioneering development of semiconductor quantum dots for medical and biological applications.

Targeting Tumours: IBBME Researchers Investigate Biological Barriers to Nanomedicine Delivery

Via University of Toronto | August 8, 2017

For cancer patients, understanding the odds of a treatment’s success can be bewildering. The same drug, applied to the same type of cancer, might be fully successful on one person’s tumour and do nothing for another one. Physicians are often unable to explain why.

Now, U of T Engineering researchers are beginning to understand one of the reasons. Abdullah Syed and Shrey Sindhwani, both PhD candidates, and their colleagues at the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) have created a technology to watch nanoparticles traveling into tumours — revealing barriers that prevent their delivery to targets and the variability between cancers.

“The biggest thing we’ve noticed is that nanoparticles face multiple challenges posed by the tumour itself on their way to cancer cells,” says Sindhwani, an MD-PhD student in the Integrated Nanotechnology & Biomedical Sciences Laboratory of Professor Warren Chan (IBBME). Syed and Sindhwani co-published their findings online June 22, and on the cover of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. “So the treatment might work for a while — or worse, there’s just enough of the drug for the cancer to develop resistance. This could be prevented if we can figure out the ways in which these barriers stop delivery and distribution of the drug throughout the cancer… Continue reading.

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Warren Chan named U of T Distinguished Professor

Via U. Toronto | November 1, 2016

IBBME Professor Warren Chan has been named the University of Toronto Distinguished Professor of Nanobioengineering. The Distinguished Professor Award recognizes individuals with highly distinguished accomplishments and those who display exceptional promise. Chan will hold the professorship for a five-year term starting November 1, 2016. He is one of nine Distinguished Professors in the Faculty.

Chan leads a world-renowned research program in biomedical nanotechnology that has garnered international recognition for its exceptional innovation, breadth, and impact. His group has created a rapid, point-of-care nanotechnology-based diagnostic system that can detect multiple diseases from a single drop of blood.  The device is based on a combination of quantum dot barcoding technology — which picks out genetic markers for diseases — and techniques that allow the signals to be imaged and identified by a smartphone. The device costs less than $100 and can detect sequences from viruses like HIV or hepatitis B in less than one hour at 90 per cent accuracy.

Another focus of Chan’s research has been the development of technology for delivering chemotherapy drugs directly into tumours, avoiding the side-effects of traditional chemotherapy treatments. Chan and his research group have designed a targeted molecular delivery system that uses modular nanoparticles whose shape, size and chemistry can be altered by the presence of specific DNA sequences. This work has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the journal Science.

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Multi-Functional, Modular Nanoparticles Could Help Fight Cancer

Via U. Toronto | August 19, 2016

Imagine a fighter jet that can fly to its target undetected, attack with two different kinds of weapons and then disappear without a trace. Now imagine that the target is a cancer cell, and that the fighter jet is a particle so small that 60 billion of them could fit on the head of a pin.

This is the principle behind a new type of nanomedicine developed by Professor Warren Chan (IBBME) and Vahid Raeesi (MSE PhD 1T6) at U of T Engineering. Their cancer-fighting nanoparticles are modular, meaning they are put together from even smaller pieces, in this case, tiny bits of gold and DNA. Each component plays a role in the multi-part mission to treat cancer more effectively while reducing the side effects relative to current options.

“Tumours within the body are complex systems,” says Raeesi. “To interact with them, you need particles that are equally complex, adaptable and interactive. They need to change their properties and behaviour in order to complete different tasks at different times.”

The first task is to reach the cancer cells, which involves running a gauntlet past the body’s immune system, whose white blood cells are designed to capture and eject anything they identify as foreign. Once the particles reach the tumour, the next step is to deliver the payload, such as an anti-cancer drug, in a controlled, effective manner. Finally, the particles need to degrade so that they don’t damage non-cancerous cells once their mission is through.

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Tracking Nanoparticles With Transparent Organs To Help Fight Cancer

Via U. Toronto | May 11, 2016

U of T Engineering researchers have modified and improved a technique that makes tissue from kidneys, livers and other organs nearly transparent under a microscope. This advance will allow them to better track how nanoparticles — tiny particles that can be injected into patients to deliver medicine or enhance medical imaging — travel through the body, and has the potential to improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer.

“It was kind of like taking off a blindfold,” says Shrey Sindhwani, an MD-PhD candidate in the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and the Faculty of Medicine. “When we know more about which type of cell is taking up which kind of nanoparticle, we can ensure we are using the right drug for the right application.”

Sindhwani and Abdullah Syed (IBBME PhD candidate), supervised by Professor Warren Chan (IBBME), are co-lead authors on a paper which recently made the front cover of ACS Nano. The paper outlines their technique for turning organs transparent, and demonstrates its usefulness for the emerging field of nanomedicine.

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How Many Nanoparticle-Based Drugs Reach Tumours?

Via U. Toronto | April 26, 2016

Targeting cancer cells for destruction while leaving healthy cells alone — that has been the promise of the emerging field of cancer nanomedicine. But a new meta-analysis from U of T’s Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) indicates that progress so far has been limited and new strategies are needed if the promise is to become reality.

“The amount of research into using engineered nanoparticles to deliver cancer drugs directly to tumours has been growing steadily over the last decade, but there are very few formulations used in patients. The question is why?” says Professor Warren Chan (IBBME, ChemE, MSE), senior author on the review paper published today in Nature Reviews Materials. “We felt it was time to look at the field more closely.”

Chan and his co-authors analysed 117 published papers that recorded the delivery efficiency of various nanoparticles to tumours — that is, the percentage of injected nanoparticles that actually reach their intended target. To their surprise, they found that the median value was about 0.7 per cent of injected nanoparticles reaching their targets, and that this number has not changed for the last ten years. “If the nanoparticles do not get delivered to the tumour, they cannot work as designed for many nanomedicines,” says Chan.

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Shape-Shifting Engineered Nanoparticles For Delivering Cancer Drugs To Tumours

Via U. Toronto | February 18, 2016

Chemotherapy isn’t supposed to make your hair fall out — it’s supposed to kill cancer cells. A new molecular delivery system created at U of T could help ensure that chemotherapy drugs get to their target while minimizing collateral damage.

Many cancer drugs target fast-growing cells. Injected into a patient, they swirl around in the bloodstream acting on fast-growing cells wherever they find them. That includes tumours, but unfortunately also hair follicles, the lining of your digestive system, and your skin.

Professor Warren Chan (IBBME, ChemE, MSE) has spent the last decade figuring out how to deliver chemotherapy drugs into tumours — and nowhere else. Now his lab has designed a set of nanoparticles attached to strands of DNA that can change shape to gain access to diseased tissue.

“Your body is basically a series of compartments,” says Chan. “Think of it as a giant house with rooms inside. We’re trying to figure out how to get something that’s outside, into one specific room. One has to develop a map and a system that can move through the house where each path to the final room may have different restrictions such as height and width.”

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Warren Chan honoured with Kabiller Young Investigator Award

Via U. Toronto | October 5, 2015

Professor Warren Chan (IBBME) has received the inaugural Kabiller Young Investigator Award from the International Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University.

“I am very honoured to receive this award,” said Chan. “I hope this recognition helps to inspire other young scientists in the field of nanotechnology.” The $10,000 award was presented Oct. 1, 2015 at the International Institute for Nanotechnology Symposium in Evanston, Illinois. It recognizes a young researcher who has made a recent groundbreaking discovery with the potential to make a lasting impact in the nanomedicine area.

Chan, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Bionanotechnology, is creating a roadmap for the design and application of nanotechnology to improving the diagnosis and treatment of disease. In particular, the award recognizes his major discoveries and advances in the field of nanomedicine, including the roles played by the size, shape, and surface chemistry of nanoparticles in determining their interactions with cells. Recently, his group created a rapid, point-of-care nanotechnology-based diagnostic system that can detect multiple diseases from a single drop of blood.

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DNA-Built Nanoparticles Safely Target Cancer Tumours

Via University of Toronto | January 27, 2014

A team of researchers at the University of Toronto has discovered a method of assembling “building blocks” of gold nanoparticles as the vehicle to deliver cancer medications or cancer-identifying markers directly into cancerous tumors.

The study, led by Professor Warren Chan, of U of T’s Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and the Donnelly Centre for Cellular & Biomolecular Research, appears in an article in Nature Nanotechnology this week.

“To get materials into a tumor they need to be a certain size,” explained Chan. “Tumors are characterized by leaky vessels with holes roughly 50 – 500 nanometers in size, depending on the tumor type and stage. The goal is to deliver particles small enough to get through the holes and ‘hang out’ in the tumor’s space for the particles to treat or image the cancer.

“If particle is too large, it can’t get in, but if the particle is too small, it leaves the tumor very quickly.” 

Chan and his researchers solved this problem by creating modular structures ‘glued’ together with DNA.

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Professors Warren Chan and Yu Sun, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering

Via University of Toronto News | April 11, 2013

Professors Warren Chan, Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering, and Yu Sun, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, have received E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowships, awarded to enhance the career development of outstanding and highly promising scientists and engineers who are faculty members of Canadian universities.

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Warren Chan, Global Leader in Nanotechnology

Via University of Toronto News | February 27, 2013

Warren Chan is a professor at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) at the University of Toronto, where he holds a Canada Research Chair in Bionanotechnology. Professor Chan works with quantum dots and nanoparticles—tiny particles that are helping researchers develop portable and cheaper diagnostic equipment for infectious diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, malaria and syphilis.

Chan has co-founded two companies, including Cytodiagnostics, which is among the top five nano-biotechnology companies in the world. He also contributes to national and international agencies examining the impact of nanomaterials and developing regulations governing their use.

Chan is one of three faculty members at U of T to receive an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowships this year. The fellowships were created to enhance the career development of outstanding and highly promising scientists and engineers who are faculty members at Canadian universities.

U of T News asked Chan about his research and the implications it holds for future generations.

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U of T Researchers Win $3.2 Million to Tackle Cancer, Other Health Challenges

Via University of Toronto News | June 9, 2011

Seven U of T researchers have won a total of $3.2 million in grants from the collaborative health research projects program (CHRP).

Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear was on campus June 9 to announce $15 million in funding for 17 universities across Canada. U of T researchers won 21 per cent of the total funding available.

The CHRP Program supports focused interdisciplinary collaborative research projects and is jointly funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council (NSERC). It supports projects that will lead to health benefits for Canadians, more effective health services and health-related economic development.

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