Professors Helen Tran and Anatole von Lilienfeld named recipients of the Joint EMHSeed & XSeed Funding Program for medicine and AI research projects

May 30, 2023 by Mayuri Punithan - Department of Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry would like to congratulate Professors Helen Tran and Anatole von Lilienfeld. They are among twenty-six recipients of the 2023-2025 Joint EMHSeed & XSeed Funding Program.

In 2015, the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering (FASE) formed an interdivisional research funding program, called The Joint Seed Program. The Faculty partnered with other University of Toronto divisions, such as the Faculty of Arts and Science, U of T affiliated hospitals and TRANSFORM Heart Failure, to run this program. The program was designed to promote multi-disciplinary research and catalyze new innovative partnerships between FASE researchers and non-FASE researchers. This year recipients are undertaking unique and innovative research initiatives ranging from surgical micro-robots to equitable healthcare and medical imaging. In particular, Professors Tran and Lilienfeld received funding from the XSeed Program for their research projects in medicine and artificial intelligence.  

Research Projects

Mechanical Stimulus-Triggered Controlled Release of RNA Nanoparticles from Implantable Polymeric Depots for Localized Treatments 

Co-Applicants: Omar Khan (Institute of Biomedical Engineering) & Helen Tran (Department of Chemistry) 

Movement-related chronic immunological conditions that cause inflammation and tissue degradation are an on-going and incurable condition often treated orally through medication, which is not as targeted or effective. This project combines anti-inflammatory mRNA nanoparticles and stimuli-responsive polymers to create injectable nanoparticle depots that treat inflammation directly in the joint.  

The XSeed Funding is an invaluable accelerator for me as an Assistant Professor to jump-start collaborative projects that would otherwise not be possible without the funding. I am incredibly excited to work with Professor Omar Khan, a leader in nucleic acid therapies, on stimuli-responsive polymers for injectable nanoparticles to treat inflammation. I am certain this opportunity will lead to other fruitful collaborations as the students and PIs learn from each other’s expertise.

-Professor Helen Tran

The Open Quantum MOF Database 

Co-Applicants: Mohamad Moosavi (Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry) & Anatole von Lilienfeld (Department of Chemistry) 

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are porous crystalline materials with high chemical tunability that show promising performance for a wide range of sustainability applications, including carbon capture and hydrogen storage. However, the accuracy and success of these methods are tied to the availability of data. MOF properties have been computed using inexpensive, low-accuracy methods. This project aims to dramatically expand the range of available materials’ properties and enhance the accuracy of available data. This database will then be made publicly available through the Open Quantum MOF Database. This effort aims to enable AI-guided design and discovery of MOFs for a wide range of applications in the future.

I'm deeply honoured to receive this grant, a testament to the significance and potential of this work in the realm of Metal-organic Frameworks (MOFs). The collaborative funding enables us to push the boundaries of data accuracy in predicting MOF properties, opening up an expansive spectrum of sustainable applications from carbon capture to hydrogen storage. With the aid of AI, we are not merely enhancing scientific knowledge but paving the way for future discoveries. Through the Open Quantum MOF Database, our findings will become a communal resource, a foundation for other researchers to build upon in pursuit of a sustainable future.

-Professor Anatole von Lilienfeld

Read about the other recipients on the FASE website.