Media Releases

University of Toronto Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant For Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development

May 26, 2016

Toron­to, ON – Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to announced today that it is a Grand Chal­lenges Explo­rations win­ner, an ini­tia­tive fund­ed by the Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion. Pro­fes­sor Aaron Wheel­er, of the Depart­ment of Chem­istry and Insti­tute of Bio­ma­te­ri­als & Bio­med­ical Engi­neer­ing, and his research team will pur­sue an inno­v­a­tive glob­al health and devel­op­ment research project, titled “A dig­i­tal microflu­idic method for rapid malar­ia diag­nos­tics.”

Grand Chal­lenges Explo­rations (GCE) funds indi­vid­u­als world­wide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve per­sis­tent glob­al health and devel­op­ment chal­lenges. Wheeler’s project is one of more than 40 Grand Chal­lenges Explo­rations grants announced today by the Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion.

To receive fund­ing, Pro­fes­sor Wheel­er and oth­er Grand Chal­lenges Explo­rations win­ners demon­strat­ed in a two-page online appli­ca­tion a bold idea in one of five crit­i­cal glob­al heath and devel­op­ment top­ic areas.

The Wheel­er Lab­o­ra­to­ry spe­cial­izes in a tech­nol­o­gy called dig­i­tal microflu­idics, which can move small droplets of liq­uids using elec­tro­sta­t­ic forces. This tech­nol­o­gy lets them shrink down the lab to some­thing the size of the cred­it card, enabling com­pli­cat­ed lab­o­ra­to­ry tests to be per­formed in the com­mu­ni­ty and at the point of need. Using this tech­nol­o­gy, the Wheel­er Lab is devel­op­ing sen­si­tive diag­nos­tic tests that can detect bio­mark­ers of the malar­ia par­a­site in human sali­va.

This project adds to research cur­rent­ly being con­duct­ed by the group in the area of glob­al health. Wheeler’s team has already devel­oped minia­tur­ized and rapid tests for the detec­tion of measles and rubel­la, which are cur­rent­ly under­go­ing field tri­als in Kaku­ma Refugee Camp, Kenya ( With this grant, the team hopes to increase the num­ber of tests that can be per­formed on their “lab-on-a-chip.”


For more infor­ma­tion:

Mar­it Mitchell
U of T Engi­neer­ing, Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
Tele: 416–978-4498