‘We’re about four or five years ahead of the technology,’ U of T accelerator says of quantum startup program

As an emerging technology, quantum machine learning is about as nascent as it gets. But that hasn’t stopped the Creative Destruction Lab from trying to get far ahead of the game.

The seed-stage accelerator affiliated with the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management wrapped up a novel quantum machine learning program this week with a symposium on the near-term applications for startup companies in the space.

Believed to be a world-first for a business accelerator, CDL’s program marries the booming field of machine learning with the nascent one of quantum computing, which is still very much in the research lab phase.

“We’re about four or five years ahead of the technology,” Khalid Kurji, a venture manager at CDL who did his MBA at Rotman, told a packed lecture room at the event.

Want to avoid sunburn this summer? This U of T startup’s AI-powered sun-tracker can help

Not much bigger than a bottle cap, the device Neda Ghazi holds in her hand could have a significant impact on Canadians’ health.

It’s an ultraviolet light tracker, called the QSun, that clips to a T-shirt or sports bra and alerts the user when they’re about to get a sunburn – a leading cause of skin cancer.

Ghazi and her co-founder – and husband – Ali Monam developed the $99 device through their University of Toronto startup Comfable and recently raised nearly $50,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to fund its production.

“In Canada, one in seven Canadians develop skin cancer during their lifetime – mostly because of overexposure to sunlight,” Ghazi says.

“But it’s something we can avoid easily.”


QSun is a product of Comfable. Comfable is a dynamic and innovative tech company dedicated to promoting health, comfort, and sustainability.

Toronto startup invents device that can help stop sunburns

University of Toronto post-doctoral researchers Ali Monam and Neda Ghazi have made this possible with a sleek, AI-powered, wearable sun tracker that’s roughly the size of a bottle cap.

Called QSun, the device can be clipped to any piece of clothing or accessory. A companion app uses artificial intelligence to track sun exposure, vitamin D intake, and give users personalized sun safety recommendations based on their skin type.

When the device detects that you’re about to get a sunburn, it will warn you to seek shade or apply more sunscreen.

AI researcher outlines vision for ‘self-driving’ labs at U of T-Tsinghua University conference

The ability of artificial intelligence – and deep learning algorithms in particular – to recognize images has created much excitement in recent years, sparking a race to develop everything from self-driving cars to robotic assistants.

But Alán Aspuru-Guzik believes the mix of AI and chemistry could ultimately be even more important.

The former Harvard University researcher, who is joining the University of Toronto’s departments of chemistry and computer science this summer, explained to a packed auditorium at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy this week his vision of a “self-driving” laboratory, which can be used to develop new materials for applications ranging from smartphone screens to advanced battery technologies.

“I use AI to classify molecules into good or bad, and I use AI to dream [up] molecules and to control problems – to pick what is the next best experiment to do,” he said.

“In a sense we’re doing the same thing for molecular structures that people have done for pictures of animals and cats – we just believe that the molecular advances are more useful for humanity than the images.”

U of T startup draws Google’s interest by using AI to speed drug discovery

A biomedical startup founded by University of Toronto alumni has raised US$8 million from a group of investors that includes Montreal’s iNovia Capital and Google’s Gradient Ventures.

BenchSci, founded in 2015, uses artificial intelligence to scan millions of data points in published research papers in a bid to speed the drug discovery process.

“We think they’re going to have an outsized impact on both the biochemical world and on the Canadian entrepreneur community,” Ankit Jain, a founding partner at Gradient and director of engineering at Google, told the Globe and Mail.

The idea for BenchSci was hatched after Tom Leung, who did his PhD in epigenetics at U of T, struggled to find the best antibodies for his experiments. He built the company with fellow U of T researchers David Chen, Elvis Wianda and Liran Belenzon and received support from several U of T incubators and accelerators, including The Entrepreneurship Hatchery, Creative Destruction Lab and Health Innovation Hub (H2i), according to the company’s website.

U of T startups take home prizes at annual Ontario innovation conference

Startups from the University of Toronto won both major pitch competitions at this year’s Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery conference, an innovation-focused event that draws participants from across the province.

Luna Yu’s startup, Genecis EnviroTech, beat out four other finalists for a $20,000 prize in the social enterprise category, which included both non-profit and for-profit ventures. Genesis uses micro-organisms to turn restaurant food waste into biodegradable plastics that can be used to make food containers and 3D printing filament, among other products.

The other $20,000 prize winner was U of T’s Steadiwear, which has developed a tremor-dampening glove for patients with Parkinson’s disease or essential tremor.

“At our stage, all of that money is going to manufacturing,” Mark Elias, Steadiwear’s co-founder and CEO, said shortly after accepting the award in front of a packed ballroom at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

“It really helps us overcome some of these hurdles.”