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‘Don’t waste time’: This summer job taught Wattpad’s CEO how to innovate

It was the summer of 1989. Allen Lau was furiously building a prototype for Toronto’s public transit authority: A passenger-counting device that could be mounted near the entrance of a vehicle.

“At the time, without Presto, it was impossible to track how many people came on each bus at a given time,” Lau said in a phone interview, referring to the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) electronic payment system for transit users

“New voices and new insights”: NSERC awards over $51 million to support research at U of T

From theoretical work in the sciences to applied work in engineering and health fields, over 180 University of Toronto researchers will share more than $51 million through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Discovery Grants program.

The grants, which support experts at all career stages, but are especially important for early-career researchers, were announced Friday by Minister of Foreign Affairs and MP for University-Rosedale Chrystia Freeland at an event held at U of T’s Medical Sciences Building.  

Drop closes $58 million CAD Series B with eyes on accelerated growth, going public

Mobile rewards startup Drop has closed a $58 million CAD ($44 million USD) Series B to help accelerate its growth and allow it to enter into new markets.

The funding round was led by returning investor HOF Capital, with participation from fellow returning investors New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Sierra Ventures, and White Star Capital. Royal Bank of Canada also participated for the first time, as a strategic investor.

“The traditional reward industry is quite archaic. Whether it’s Airmiles in Canada, or Aeroplan, or Scene, consumers often have to carry around a physical card, they have to swipe it at the retail point of sale, [and] redemption is a pain,” Drop CEO Derrick Fung told BetaKit. “Over the last couple years it’s become pretty clear that a lot of the big incumbents [and] large players have been struggling.”

Minister Bains announces for Canada’s next cleantech champions

Across Canada, companies at the forefront of clean technology innovation are developing solutions that will support economic growth, create jobs and protect the environment. The Government of Canada has prioritized investments in cleantech to ensure Canadian companies are positioned to compete in this growing industry, expected to reach a value of 2.5 trillion-dollars by 2022.

Today, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, participated in Sustainable Development Technology Canada’s annual public meeting to announce how 18 cleantech companies across Canada will leverage $56 million in funding to bring new and innovative clean technologies to market.

Advanced manufacturing Supercluster invests in potentially life-saving gene therapies

The organization that runs Canada’s advanced manufacturing supercluster – which includes the University of Toronto – has announced its first funded project: a consortium devoted to producing special viruses that can deliver genetic treatments to people suffering from late-stage cancers and rare genetic disorders.

Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen), a not-for-profit that oversees the supercluster and includes Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering Dean Emerita Cristina Amon on its board, said it will contribute $1.89 million towards the project.

With Google’s backing, U of T startup BenchSci uses AI to create ‘super scientists’

In less than three years, biomedical firm BenchSci has gone from four people sitting around a table to a 50-strong operation that’s backed by Google and counts some of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies among its clients.

It’s been a heady rise for the University of Toronto startup, which uses machine learning to help scientists scour, select and purchase antibodies for their experiments, saving time and money. To date, BenchSci has raised over $27 million from investors. That includes Google’s Gradient Ventures, which last year made BenchSci its first investment outside the United States before topping up its investment this past June.

Blood pressure monitoring could be as simple as a selfie, Canadian researcher says

According to a recent study led by Kang Lee, a developmental neuroscientist and professor at the University of Toronto, recording selfie-style video footage of different faces through a new app can reliably determine someone’s blood pressure.

“The most exciting part of this technology is that we spend so much time on our phones … one of the things a smartphone can do, and is very smart about, is telling you about yourself,” Lee says.

Toronto researcher developing selfie-based blood pressure monitor

You can learn a lot about someone from the videos they take of themselves. One day, these recordings may even be able to reveal your blood pressure, says a Toronto researcher.

Kang Lee, a professor and research chair in developmental neuroscience at University of Toronto, is developing a smartphone app that he says can monitor blood pressure by analyzing a short selfie video.

Crowdmark grading platform passes the test

Michelle Caers, CEO of Crowdmark (, has long felt that the Internet would democratize education. She did her MBA dissertation on e-learning, and notes how technology has made education more accessible and engaging. Yet one area remains old school: the actual grading of students’ exams and assignments.

That tends to be a pen-and-paper exercise. The time required for manual grading can also get in the way of providing the most valuable comments and advice.