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U of T infectious disease expert’s AI firm now part of Canada’s COVID-19 arsenal

On New Year’s Eve, the software company BlueDot pushed out a notification to its customers about a mysterious illness that appeared in Wuhan, China. 

The start-up, which grew out of Dr. Kamran Khan’s research at the University of Toronto, combines natural language processing and machine learning to gather insights on the emergence and spread of infectious diseases around the globe. BlueDot was the first to warn the world of a potentially dangerous new illness – now known as COVID-19 – ringing the alarm before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did on Jan. 6 and before the World Health Organization followed suit three days later. 

U of T Engineering students create online map to help track the spread of COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada, Shrey Jain and his University of Toronto classmates received notice that all their courses were moving online two weeks ago – and they saw an opportunity.

Jain is the leader of, a volunteer-driven push to leverage big data in the fight against COVID-19. In just over a week, he and more than 25 other collaborators created an online platform that provides a real-time heat map of potential and confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Firm led by U of T alumnus joins fight against COVID-19 with portable test kit

A University of Toronto alumnus is behind a biotech firm that could soon be bringing portable COVID-19 tests to communities across the country — and ultimately around the world. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced the federal government is working with Spartan Bioscience — led by CEO Paul Lem — to adapt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 DNA test to its own Spartan Cube. Lem predicts the mobile, hand-held diagnostic kit, which provides test results in just 30 minutes, could be ready for this use in as few as eight weeks.

U of T and IIT Bombay to launch entrepreneurship program, shared innovation pipeline

The University of Toronto and Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay) are developing a new entrepreneurship program that will strengthen ties between the innovation ecosystems in Canada and India, benefitting startups in both countries.

The partnership will see the two top-ranked universities implement exchange programs for budding entrepreneurs, support research collaborations and develop a strong, two-way innovation talent pipeline.

Plastic that saves the planet? U of T startup’s novel resin helps industry go green

Nuha Siddiqui was browsing a World Economic Forum report on the future of the plastics industry when she came across an ominous prediction. “It stated that by 2050, there would be more plastic than fish in the ocean,” Siddiqui recalls.

That was back in 2016, when Siddiqui was a second-year Rotman Commerce student at the University of Toronto. The grim forecast spurred Siddiqui, who, at the time, was also president of the U of T chapter of global social entrepreneurship network Enactus, to research the plastic industry and figure out where she could have an impact. Four years later, Siddiqui is now CEO of a fast-growing startup that has raised millions of dollars in venture funding and is working with global plastic manufacturing giants to replace their plastic components with a non-toxic eco-resin.

U of T Entrepreneurship Week: 10 startups to watch

From speeding the discovery of life-saving drugs to reducing the amount of plastic clogging the oceans, University of Toronto entrepreneurs and their startups are engaged in tackling some of the most pressing challenges of the day.

Over the past decade, U of T has nurtured 500 startups that have secured some $1.5 billion in investment. Many of the companies were founded by students who sought to provide innovative solutions to problems. Others were launched by professors who were looking to implement their research in the real world.

U of T Entrepreneurship Week: By the numbers

The University of Toronto is gearing up for its fourth annual Entrepreneurship Week, a celebration of U of T entrepreneurs and their startups.

Running from March 9 to 13, Entrepreneurship Week features an array of events hosted by U of T’s campus-linked startup incubators and accelerators, as well as other programming by U of T and its government and non-profit partners. There are startup showcases, pitch competitions, keynote talks, workshops, networking events and more.

U of T’s Kamran Khan on how his startup used AI to spot the coronavirus before anyone else: CNBC

Nine days before the World Health Organization alerted the world to the threat posed by COVID-19, an artificial intelligence-powered startup led by the University of Toronto’s Kamran Khan had already spotted the first signs of an unusual outbreak.

In an interview with CNBC, Khan explained how his company, BlueDot, was able to scour big data and spot the emergence of the novel coronavirus before anyone else. 

He said BlueDot uses machine learning and natural language processing to comb through masses of data, which are then reviewed by doctors and computer programmers who create threat reports.