Software superstars: U of T alumni, student among Canada’s top developers under 30

Who are Canada’s best developers?

Jyotheeswar Arvind Manickavasagar is one, according to Canadian Business. And so are Amber Houle, Zain Manji and Amy Xiao.

“This award validates my decision to come to Canada and study at U of T,” says Manickavasagar, who graduated last year from U of T and is now working at DNAstack, a genomics software startup.

The four University of Toronto developers are named in the first Developer 30 Under 30 list, announced by Canadian Business this week.

Like the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list of rising talent, the Developer 30 Under 30 list was put together by Plastic Mobile and the developers were profiled in Canadian Business. The list focuses on Canada’s next generation of software stars, who were selected by a committee including top executives from companies such as Plastic Mobile, RBC, Sun Life, Pizza Pizza, Indigo, Rogers and Canada Goose.

Two other U of T alumni made the list: Houle, who completed a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering and is currently a software developer and consultant at Thoughtworks, a global IT consultancy; and computer science and economics graduate Manji, who has worked at Google, Yelp and Instagram and is now a co-founder and chief product officer of Fiix, a platform which sends licensed, expert mechanics to customers’ driveways for car repair.

U of T student’s startup aims to improve birth outcomes for racialized women

As a health sciences researcher, Elsie Amoako spent a lot of time studying birth outcomes for racialized women in Canada – and was disappointed with what she found.

So she decided to do something about it.

The graduate student at U of T’s Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, is launching a startup that aims to improve maternal health care for Canadian women of African, Caribbean and Latin American descent.

Called Mommy Monitor, the smartphone app asks pregnant women and new mothers to record key data about their lives – sleep, diet, exercise – and uses a specially designed algorithm to spot problematic patterns. The app also connects users to patient navigators – employees who are equipped to answer questions, offer guidance and refer users to a physician, if necessary.

“I realized that if we could identify how a woman lives and any potential risks around that, we could let her know and help her change her habits slightly,” says Amoako, who is also a co-chair of the Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario and a participant in the Next36 entrepreneur initiative. “That could change the outcome of her health care.”

U of T researcher launches startup to help find new smart drugs

Igor Stagljar likens the process of commercializing his ground-breaking research into cell membrane proteins – which has yielded hundreds of new targets for drug-makers seeking cures for cancer and other deadly diseases – to building a highly automated Tesla factory.

But there’s a key difference: ProteinNetwork Therapeutix will be based here in Canada, not south of the border.

Stagljar, a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Toronto, initially considered setting up his new venture in Silicon Valley. But he and business partner Ivan Plavec ultimately decided Toronto was a better option.

“The technology is here and the know-how is here,” says Stagljar, citing U of T’s large pool of research talent and a growing cluster of venture capital investors on or near the university’s downtown campus. “Maybe some people from my lab will even go to work for the company.”

Toronto startup ModiFace invests $4M to train U of T students in augmented reality

Imagine a touch-screen phone you don’t have to touch. The phone’s camera tracks your eye movement around the screen. You just look at a button instead of tapping it. “Gaze-tracking” isn’t here yet, but could be very soon. It’s just one of many new possibilities in the emerging field of augmented-reality technology (AR). But to achieve those possibilities, tech companies need new talent, and that’s why University of Toronto professor and high-tech entrepreneur Parham Aarabi announced a $4-million investment in U of T on Tuesday.

“The biggest limitation to how much we can grow is our ability to recruit and find augmented-reality engineers,” Aarabi said.

Aarabi is the founder and CEO of ModiFace, a Toronto-based augmented-reality startup. His investment will fund student internships and research at U of T’s engineering department.

AR is closely associated with artificial intelligence (AI). It involves computer-generated changes to images of the real world, such as Snapchat filters or the popular Pokemon Go smartphone game.

This Canadian startup Is bringing some serious style to science labs

A University of Toronto science student is experimenting with a new take on the traditional lab coat—and coming up with some seriously positive results.

Think about it. When you walk into a university book store looking for a lab coat, what do you see? Racks on racks on racks of the classic white coat in the same ill-fitting shape that scientists have been sporting for decades.

“People have this perception that lab coats are white, they’re always white, and it doesn’t have to look good, it just has to be there to protect their clothing,” says Alex Schmidt, the chief technical officer of Modadoro, a startup bringing style and science together.

Modadoro, named after the Italian phrase moda d’oro which translates to “fashion gold,” adds a pop of colour to STEM fields with its line of fitted lab coats, available in colours such as pink, navy blue, grey and the classic white, with sizes ranging from extra small to large. For the 2017-2018 academic year, they are working on also offering a line of men’s lab coats.


MedChart wants to make health records more accessible to patients with cloud-based platform

MedChart, one of the latest pitches on The Disruptors, aims to eliminate the barriers patients face when trying to access their health records.

The company offers a cloud-based patient platform that allows Canadians to aggregate their medical records from health care providers across the country. According to James Bateman, CEO and co-founder of MedChart, the company works with both health care institutions and patients.

Health care institutions can gain the software tools and technology needed to provide patients with their health records, while patients can pay a $10 fee to MedChart to gain access to their information.

“We’re trying to build that central hub where patients interact with their health with no limitations or barriers to allowing patients to access that information,” said Bateman.

Augmented reality startup creates 50 internships for U of T undergrads

Augmented reality and artificial intelligence are the rage these days. And if you’re a student hoping to get into the field your prospects may have just gotten a bit brighter.

ModiFace, an AR startup founded by a University of Toronto engineering associate professor is investing $4 million to create 50 create new undergraduate and graduate student internships, and support leading research at U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering.

The company’s founder, Parham Aarabi, associate professor of the department of electrical & computer engineering, is hoping the move will spark greater interest in AR and AI studies and produce local talent in the growing field.

An IDC report forecasts that the AR and virtual reality markets will be worth $162 billion by 2020. A Markets and Markets report estimates that the AI space will be worth more than $16 billion by 2022.

Renewable energy research, cleantech startups from U of T take centre stage

If Silicon Valley is where big minds fixate on small problems – a better way to hail a taxi or swap photos on your smartphone – then the University of Toronto may soon be known as the place where the world’s biggest, most intractable issues are solved.

That was the underlying message at U of T’s recent Toronto Sustainability Summit, held at the MaRS Centre in downtown Toronto.

The sold-out event brought together leading U of T researchers, key government officials and senior industry executives to discuss ways to work together to tackle planet-threatening climate change. Reza Moridi, Ontario’s minister of research, innovation and science, took the opportunity to announce a new, $7 million competition designed to develop breakthrough technologies to help the province’s industrial plants reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Universities have a crucial role to play,” said Meric Gertler, U of T’s president, offering a long list of research areas, from biofuels research to environmental law, where U of T excels. “In fact, among universities worldwide, I was delighted to recently discover that U of T is the seventh leading producer of research and scholarship in environmental research and environmental sciences – and we’re third in North America behind Berkeley and Harvard.”

Interested in AI and augmented reality? ModiFace creates 50 internships for U of T engineering undergrads

Augmented reality startup ModiFace is investing $4 million to create new undergraduate and graduate student internships, and support leading research at U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering.

The company, founded by Associate Professor Parham Aarabi of the department of electrical & computer engineering, uses augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) to build advanced facial visualization software for the beauty and medical industries. ModiFace technology powers over 100 AR applications by Fortune 500 brands including Sephora, L’Oreal, Allergan, Vichy and Clairol, among others.

“The future of ModiFace is highly dependent on our access to the best AR engineers in the world,” says Aarabi. “For AR, it takes about a year for a new graduate to get up to speed with the latest concepts in artificial intelligence, systems engineering and computer vision.  As a result, we want to invest in students early while they’re still in school to start giving them the best training in these fast-moving fields.”

As part of U of T Engineering’s Professional Experience Year (PEY) internship program, ModiFace is hiring 50 undergraduate students into 12- to 16-month paid positions that allow students to gain extensive professional skills before graduation. Applications are now open, and the first cohort will start in May 2017.

Embracing AI: Here’s how companies will use research from U of T and the newly created Vector Institute

A growing number of companies across a wide range of sectors in Canada and the U.S. are embracing artificial intelligence in order to make their businesses more efficient and competitive.

With the help of researchers including those from the University Toronto and the just-launched Vector Institute, AI and more specifically, machine learning, is giving businesses the opportunity to beef up existing technologies – turning cars into self-driving vehicles and creating incredibly accurate translating software, for example.

“Most commercial applications of this prediction technology don’t operate in isolation. They’re deployed as a complement to other things,” says Ajay Agrawal, founder of the Creative Destruction Lab at U of T’s Rotman School of Management.

Agrawal says it’s important not to think of AI as a standalone product.