A recruitment event by Uber at the University of Toronto this week began as a lecture and ended like a celebrity sighting.
Raquel Urtasun, the head of Uber’s new self-driving vehicle lab in Toronto, was engulfed by dozens of eager, resumé-clutching students immediately following a presentation about her research at the ride-sharing giant.
The scrum occurred shortly after Urtasun, who is also an associate professor of computer science at U of T, told the packed auditorium to head outside to see one of Uber’s sleek, gun metal-coloured test cars, complete with a spinning sensor array strapped to the roof.
She only managed to walk about 15 metres before she was surrounded – one of the many ways Urtasun’s life has changed since she was named head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group Toronto earlier this year.
Yung Wu, a University of Toronto alumnus who founded, scaled and financed multiple startups, has been named the new chief executive of the MaRS Discovery District – a key player in downtown Toronto’s rapidly expanding innovation and commercialization ecosystem.
Currently chairman of early-stage investment firm NFQ Ventures, Wu said Thursday that he’s looking forward to his new role helping innovators build game-changing, made-in-Canada companies.
He is scheduled to start Nov. 1.
“As an entrepreneur, I know that timing is critical,” Wu said in a statement. “We have a unique window of opportunity to make Canada an international destination for great founders, not just a source of top talent.”
Its creation was greeted with national and international media attention. Now, the Vector Institute has its first president and CEO: Garth Gibson, currently at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Gibson is recognized for his contributions to scalable computing research, which laid the foundations for some of the world’s fastest supercomputers. As a leader in advanced education, he co-created and built Carnegie Mellon’s mature Parallel Data Lab into one of the largest and most active consortiums of university researchers and corporate partners to spur new discoveries and accelerate their commercialization. As an entrepreneur, his research was adopted and applied to technology solutions for multiple sectors.
“Vector’s mandate calls for a leader with expertise in advanced science, entrepreneurship and business. Dr. Garth Gibson is that leader, and we are very fortunate to welcome him to the Vector Institute,” said Ed Clark, the founding chair of the Vector Institute.
Deep Genomics, an artificial intelligence-powered health startup co-founded by University of Toronto’s Brendan Frey, has raised US$13 million from a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.
The startup, launched in 2015, combines artificial intelligence, or AI, and genomics research to help develop genetic medicines to treat a myriad of disorders – everything from autism to cancer.
Frey, a professor in U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, told the Globe and Mail the cash raised through an equity investment by Khosla Ventures of Menlo Park, Calif. will be used to hire a range of scientific experts, doubling the firm’s current 20-person staff.
“We are aiming to flip medicine on its back and do something completely different,” said Frey, who is also Deep Genomics’s CEO.
A new Toronto artificial-intelligence institute heavily funded by government and industry has hired its first chief executive.
Toronto-born Garth Gibson will lead the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which has received $50-million from Ontario and $85-million-plus from more than 30 companies, including Shopify Inc., Magna International Inc., Canada’s big banks and U.S. tech giants including Google Inc. Vector, which has officials from University of Toronto and University of Waterloo on its board, will also receive tens of millions of dollars from a new federal program.
The 58-year-old Dr. Gibson, who starts Jan. 2, is returning home after living in the United States since the 1980s. The computer-systems expert completed his PhD in engineering at University of California, Berkeley in 1991 and has held several senior positions at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, where he is a computer-science professor and established the school’s Parallel Data Lab and Petascale Data Storage Institute.
“What they’re doing [at Vector] is different from most institutes I’m aware of, so I was intrigued,” Dr. Gibson said. “This is something of an academic group with a consortium outside of the university with an agenda to support economic growth. That is unusual … The fact that it is unusual, and that it creates new advantages and new challenges, is part of the attraction.”
Toronto-based Deep Genomics has raised $16 million CAD in funding led by Khosla Ventures, according to a report from The Globe and Mail.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and entrepreneur Michael Hyatt also invested in the company.
Deep Genomics’ platform uses deep learning-based technology to help geneticists, molecular biologists, and chemists develop therapies. The company developed a software system called Saturn, which it will use to search across 69 billion molecules to identify 1,000 synthesized compounds that can be used to manipulate the makeup of cells.
“Because of the quality of their science and engineering team and the deep integration of their AI technology into their preclinical drug development pipeline, we are confident that a very large potential exists here to discover new therapies,” Khosla Ventures’ Vinod Khosla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, told The Globe.
For more information, please visit the Globe and Mail’s main website.
Electronic glasses for the visually impaired — including people who haven’t been able to see their entire lives — will be among the 48 exhibits at this week’s Accessibility Innovation Showcase, an official event of the 2017 Invictus Games.
The free, two-day showcase begins Monday and will feature new tech designed for people living with disabilities. Some products will also hit the runway at the showcase’s wearable technology fashion show at 10:45 a.m. Monday.
Companies were selected based in part on how their product helps increase the user’s independence, said Morris Milner, a doctor of biomedical engineering and a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto.
“The impact of these kinds of devices is very significant . . . This is very dramatic stuff, and I think we’re on the cusp of seeing bigger” advancements in wearable technologies, he said.
The latest issue of Toronto Life magazine dubbed Canada’s largest city “the new Silicon Valley” – and the University of Toronto is playing a key role.
The magazine highlights several U of T researchers who have helped fuel Toronto’s tech revolution. They include:
● U of T Associate Professor Raquel Urtasun, an expert in computer vision and machine learning who heads up Uber’s new self-driving vehicle lab in Toronto.
● U of T University Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Hinton, an engineering fellow at Google and the chief scientific adviser at the Vector Institute who is often dubbed the “godfather” of deep learning.
● Jimoh Ovbiagele, one of three former U of T students who launched artificial intelligence-powered legal research firm ROSS Intelligence, which recently opened a new R&D lab in Toronto.