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Posted: February 6, 2008

World-class research at University of Toronto to help reduce threat of global epidemic

(Nanowerk News) Developing a portable device that will help prevent, identify and contain infectious diseases such as SARS, is the goal of a new University of Toronto research project.
The project is one of four cutting-edge research projects at the University of Toronto to receive funding from the McGuinty government. The government is funding the projects in partnership with industry to support the province's top researchers in areas where Ontario can compete and win in the global marketplace.
Minister of Research and Innovation John Wilkinson made the announcement today with University of Toronto President Dr. David Naylor.
Ontario is investing:
  • More than $7 million to apply advances in nanotechnology to create a portable device that can quickly diagnose whether or not a person has an infectious disease, such as SARS -- a first step in better identifying, controlling and containing outbreaks
  • More than $3 million to develop self-powered, mesh wireless networks: cost-effective, solar-powered wireless networks that will help make high-speed wireless Internet connectivity more reliable, accessible and affordable in urban and remote areas
  • $5 million dollars to boost Ontario's competitiveness in the global market's multi-billion dollar solar industry by developing more advanced, efficient solar technologies
  • $8 million to help address some of the world's most pressing and complex problems - such as climate change and finding a cure for cancer - by providing researchers with access to state-of-the-art high-performance computing systems.
  • The $23.3 million for these projects is part of nearly $115 million invested by the government to support 19 cutting-edge research projects across Ontario. The research at universities, institutes and hospitals will receive matching funding from 107 major industry and other partners.
    "To ensure Ontario families can compete and win in the global economy, our government is investing in research and innovation and the skills and knowledge of our people today," Wilkinson said. "The strong partnerships among our top researchers, global business leaders and government will help provide Ontarians with better healthcare services, new technologies, a cleaner environment and more opportunities for success."
    "Today's investment builds on the considerable talent of University of Toronto researchers to ensure this city -- and this province --maintains leadership in growing sectors, and consistently turns global challenges into opportunities for Ontario," said George Smitherman, MPP for Toronto Centre and Deputy Premier. "It's part of the McGuinty government's strategy to create tomorrow's jobs today."
    "We're delighted to thank the Ontario Government for this outstanding support and wonderful vote of confidence," Naylor said. "This new funding not only helps our researchers generate great new ideas. It also helps U of T to attract and retain the brightest research talent from around the world -- people who will motivate and inspire Ontario's next generation of world-class scientists and entrepreneurs in knowledge-based industries."
    Together, these investments form part of the McGuinty government's plan to support research excellence that can be developed into new products and services that will boost Ontario's economy and support Ontario families. Other initiatives include:
  • Launching the $160 million Ideas-to-Market strategy that supports emerging companies, which includes the Ontario Venture Capital Fund
  • Providing a 21 per cent Capital Tax rate cut for all businesses retroactive to January 1, 2007, on the way to full elimination in 2010
  • Announcing in the 2007 Fall Economic Statement an additional $50 million in strategic investment to further strengthen Ontario's environment for scientific research that will lead to new discoveries, higher quality of life and new jobs.
  • For more information about the Ontario Research Fund, please visit
    The Ontario government is investing $527 million over five years through the Ontario Research Fund to support leading-edge research and development in Ontario's universities, institutes and hospitals, and to leverage support from the federal government and private industry.
    The fund is a key part of the province's plan to support scientific excellence that can be developed into innovative goods and services that will boost Ontario's economy.
    The fund is made up of two streams:
  • The Research Excellence program funds project operating costs, such as researchers' salaries
  • The Research Infrastructure program supports the acquisition of new research infrastructure.
  • The Ontario Research Fund is designed to provide one window for research funding. Proposals for funding are evaluated through a competitive, peer-review process. For more information, please visit
    Research Excellence Program - Round Two
    Today's announcement represents the second round of funding under the Research Excellence program. In this round, the government is providing $114,709,614 to support 19 projects. Funding will be matched by 107 major industry and other partners participating in the projects.
    The research will:
  • Support a cleaner, greener environment
  • Support better health for Ontarians
  • Support world-class science in a number of fields such as computing and astrophysics.
  • Including this round of funding, the Ontario Research Fund will have invested a total of $230 million for 45 projects and leveraged $460 million from 280 industry and other partners.
    Today's announcement represents the second round of funding under the Ontario Research Fund's Research Excellence program. In this round, the government is providing $23,353,275 to support four world-class projects at the University of Toronto.

    Containing Outbreaks Of Infectious Diseases

    Quantum Dot Diagnostics Project: Simultaneous Genomic and Proteomic

    Detection of Multiple Pathogens

    Developing a revolutionary point-of-care device for diagnosing infectious diseases

    Lead researcher: Dr. Warren Chan

    Total project cost: $21,945,701

    Provincial funding: $ 7,313,275

    The SARS outbreak of 2003 dramatically highlighted the threat of infectious diseases right here in Ontario and around the world. It also demonstrated the importance of having quick and accurate systems in place to diagnose, treat, contain and monitor the spread of infectious diseases.
    Building on revolutionary advances in nanomaterials and biological probes, top researchers at the University of Toronto are in the process of developing "barcodes" for thousands of pathogens such as malaria, while designing and testing a device that can read and interpret these barcodes.
    The goal of this project is to create an economical, portable device that is capable of diagnosing multiple pathogens from a single sample of blood - so that results will be available in minutes rather than hours.
    The researchers have partnered with Fio Corporation to move the research forward quickly in order to be first to market with their device, which if successful, promises to revolutionize current systems for monitoring, diagnosing and containing infectious diseases around the world.
    Key private sector partners: Fio Corporation
    Key facts:
  • Potential applications include hospitals and clinics as well as international border crossings.
  • Currently available technology is designed to detect only a single infectious agent. For example, many current commercially available diagnostic devices for malaria can detect only a single species of malaria and are not suitable for use in areas where multiple species co-exist.
  • This project will develop a revolutionary, portable device that is capable of detecting multiple infectious diseases, such as HIV, SARS, and hepatitis.
  • The lead researcher, Dr. Chan, currently has a team of two other researchers specializing in nanotechnology. With the support from Ontario, he will be able to add three additional investigators specializing in infectious diseases to the project.
  • Source: Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation
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