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