Professor Warren C.W. Chan grew up in Chicago and went to the University of Illinois for his undergraduate education. He then attended graduate school at Indiana University, where he trained under Dr. Shuming Nie. During his PhD research he developed fluorescent nanoparticles called quantum dots for labellling cells and tissues. Before coming to the University of Toronto as a faculty member in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, he underwent postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Diego in advancing nanoparticles to label and detect diseases in the body. In 2002, he started the Integrated Nanotechnology Biomedical Sciences Laboratory at the University of Toronto. He has made major contributions in the areas of nanotechnology, biomedical engineering, chemistry and materials science.
His research group is focused on using nanotechnology principles and systems to engineer devices that can diagnose diseases with high precision and vehicles that can deliver and target drugs to the diseased site. These two areas of research go hand in hand to improve the treatment of disease. Nanotechnology is an emerging research discipline that involves the engineering of structures, systems and materials that are on the same size scale as proteins, DNA and other biological molecules. A unique advantage of using nanotechnology for biomedical applications is the ability to manipulate and tune the properties (light emission, heat generation or the movement of electrons) of the nanoscale materials by altering the size, shape and surface chemistry. Through 14 years of independent research, the Chan research laboratory has developed devices that can molecularly identify the state of a disease, which allows clinicians to move beyond the use of symptoms to diagnose patients. In parallel, the research lab is learning the best drug delivery vehicle design for treating patients with specific diagnoses. Specifically, Professor Chan’s lab investigates the relationship between nano-drug delivery vehicle design (size, shape and surface chemistry) and disease state. The end goal of his group’s research efforts is to increase survival and reduce suffering and side effects of patients afflicted with cancer and infectious disease.
Throughout his career, Professor Chan has published many “firsts” in research. He is the first researcher to demonstrate the use of quantum dots for biological applications. He is one of the first researchers to report on the toxicity of the nanoparticles, the effect of nanoparticle design in determining cell and tissue interactions in and out of the body, development of shape-changing nanosystems, and the testing of nanotechnology devices for detecting patients with infectious diseases. He has also been credited with the start of the field of nano-bio interactions.
For his research efforts, he has won many international awards, such as the David Kabiller Young Investigator Award in Nanomedicine (United States),the NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship (Canada), the Dennis Gabor International Award (Hungary), and the Rank Prize Fund in Optoelectronics (United Kingdom).
He is currently the Associate Editor for the journal ACS Nano and is on the editorial board of a number of different journals including Small Methods, Materials Today and ChemNanoChem.