Translational Biology and Engineering Program

Our Translational Biology and Engineering Program (TBEP) is a world-class centre for discovery and innovation that blends engineering and medicine.

TBEP trainees group

A team of multidisciplinary investigators and trainees from two University of Toronto faculties have a shared mission to decipher the genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that underpin heart failure and regeneration.

Their pursuit includes developing advanced experimental model systems, novel biomaterials, and cutting-edge analytics to identify the most promising strategies to diagnose, prevent and treat heart failure and repair and regenerate heart tissue.

With strong hospital and industry partners, our TBEP team drives translational research and develops technology from discovery to diagnosis to therapy – to help patients sooner.

science and engineering labs

principal investigators


sq ft space

Areas of Focus

Repair and regenerate heart tissue

The heart has an innate ability to repair itself, but it’s lost over time. TBEP researchers are decoding how to teach it to remember, by developing ways to deliver cells, molecules and biomaterials into the heart to allow it to regenerate after an injury, such as a heart attack.

This also means creating a cardiac environment that will accept such therapy. This could come with a new biomaterial that helps stem cells function in the heart, or strategies to break down scar tissue in order to deliver such cells effectively.

Tracking molecular pathways of heart failure and fibrosis

One of the greatest causes of heart failure is cardiac fibrosis, but how it develops remains a mystery. At TBEP, we are committed to uncovering the mechanisms that drive it, as well as new strategies to treat it.

We strive to discover molecular targets, biomarkers, minimally invasive tools for early diagnosis, methods to assess new drugs, and a solution to halt the progression of fibrosis. We have also built a collaborative engine, the Global Fibrosis Network, that is focused on pioneering research, training young researchers, and securing grants for studies in this area.

Building advanced model systems

Traditional cell systems used in the lab do not accurately mimic the real heart. To solve this challenge, TBEP labs develop cell and tissue systems that replicate the actual conditions within human heart muscle, valves, and blood vessels. These animal and tissue models become advanced environments for researchers to test novel ideas and strategies that target heart failure.

Comorbidities of heart failure

Our labs take aim at how, at a molecular level, heart failure can result from such comorbidities as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and toxic effects from autoimmune drug therapy.

We also target consequences of heart failure, such as often serious cognitive symptoms and mental fatigue. One major project to this end seeks to use existing safe and effective therapies that target cystic fibrosis to normalize blood flow to the brain in people with heart failure.

Sensor technology

Key to keeping people with heart failure safe at home is by employing biosensor technology where they and their health-care team can monitor their real-time status. TBEP’s research program includes developing wearable sensors and technology that enable personalized, person-centered care. For example, smart textiles are sensors built into fabric that are capable of monitoring heart rate, blood pressure, fluid accumulation, and more.

The mission is to develop this technology and then co-create new models of heart failure care where such innovations are foundational.

A unique training program

TBEP is home at any given time to more than 120 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and undergraduate students from nine different U of T departments. Our trainees publish in high-impact journals, receive awards of distinction, hold millions in scholarship, and train alongside investigators doing cutting-edge work.

In this main Ted Rogers Centre hub, student researchers access a diverse array of basic and translational training opportunities. These include a summer program where undergraduates train under the supervision of TBEP investigators.

Diverse capabilities

  • Medical imaging and microscopy
  • Animal surgery and physiological monitoring
  • Advanced preclinical models of CVD
  • Genomic and proteomic methods to detect biomarkers
  • Biomaterial synthesis and characterization
  • Polymer processing and coating
  • Microfabrication of in vitro diagnostic devices