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Page last updated: August 24 at 10:00am ET


Donate Now to the COVID-19 Fund

The COVID-19 Action Fund enables responsive, meaningful action and collaboration during this unprecedented time. All donations support quick-response grants that spur innovation and research collaborations. Together we can accelerate our understanding of, and be part of, a solution to COVID-19.


LATEST NEWS 

President & CEO Dr. Alan Bernstein named as member of Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force

The Task Force includes vaccine and immunology experts as well as industry leaders with proven experience in developing and commercializing vaccines. They will provide advice to the Government of Canada on COVID-19 vaccines.

Manulife CIFAR Population Health & Well-being Grant Program 

Six new projects have been funded, enabling interdisciplinary research on the social, cognitive, and biological implications of COVID-19.


FUELLING DISCOVERY 

AI & COVID-19 Catalyst Grants Program

The AI & COVID-19 Catalyst Grants Program supports innovative, high-risk/high-reward ideas and projects that use AI to address the disease. 

Fourteen new research projects were selected, including efforts to repurpose existing drugs that could treat the disease, identify at-risk populations, and understand the mental health implications of the pandemic, among others.

This program is supported by the Ontario Government, Microsoft through the AI for Health program, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and Genome Canada.

Manulife CIFAR Population Health & Well-being Grant Program

The Manulife CIFAR Population Health & Well-being Grant Program allocates seed funding for projects that push research boundaries to quickly address COVID-19’s sustained impact on society and public health. 

Six projects funded through this program will explore the myriad effects of social isolation and the lifelong impact of the crisis on health and development, among others. Outcomes of projects may immediately affect community-based screening tools, wearable technologies, and the use of robots in health care or with the elderly. They will also have longer-term implications for policy and governance. 


CONNECTING GLOBAL EXPERT COMMUNITIES
& MOBILIZING KNOWLEDGE 

Expert International Roundtable on AI and COVID-19

On March 23, 2020, we convened a group of 70 Canadian and international leaders with expertise in AI research, business, infectious disease, epidemiology, and clinical medicine to explore opportunities for collaboration and data sharing. 

CIFAR published a comprehensive report within twelve hours. The connections established during the meeting led to a follow-up roundtable with G20 leaders organized by the Statistics Research Institute at Statistics Korea.

AI & COVID-19 Virtual Policy Briefing

Immediately following our International Roundtable, on March 24, we briefed more than 50 policymakers and health officials from federal and provincial governments across Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. on the policy-relevant insights that emerged from the expert roundtable. 

Provincial Data Working Group

Following the Virtual Policy Briefing, we created a group of senior health data leaders from Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, and Health Canada to share best practices on data governance issues and explore opportunities to work together. A particular focus of the group was building large, robust, and secure data platforms for research and public health. 

Machine Learning & COVID-19 Call to Action

On March 20, 2020, we led a Call to Action on Machine Learning & COVID-19 for members of CIFAR’s Learning in Machines & Brains program. The group discussed projects and initiatives that Fellows and Advisors are engaged in that connect AI and machine learning applications to COVID-19. This meeting set the groundwork for several fruitful collaborations.

Expert Advisory Group on Society, Technology and Ethics in a Pandemic

At the request of Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, we established a group of senior scholars to advise on the technical, social, legal, and ethical considerations for deploying novel technologies in response to COVID-19, with a particular focus on contact-tracing apps. This independent group included leading Canadian experts in law, regulatory innovation, artificial intelligence, epidemiology, clinical care, philosophy, ethics, and public policy. Their report, which includes a framework of guiding principles and specific implementation advice, informed government actions and decisions. 
Read the report

Pandemics & Expanded Personal Space Workshop

On June 16, 2020, fellows across seven research programs met to define critical questions, approaches, scenarios, opportunities, and problems caused by the sudden shift in social interaction. This open, collaborative space created by CIFAR sparked new ideas for interdisciplinary inquiry that address the societal impact of the pandemic.

GLOBAL REACH

CIFAR Virtual Talks

We launched a series of free, bi-weekly, virtual public talks highlighting the research insights and work of our global research community for. Aimed at researchers, policy makers, and the general public, talks have covered community approaches to COVID-19 screening, what past pandemics can teach us about today’s pandemic, and using X-rays with AI to predict COVID-19 severity, among other timely and important topics. 

Trusted expertise

Since March, our community of researchers and members of our executive team have been featured in more than 8,300 stories worldwide, with over 23 billion impressions. CIFAR experts were cited by Barrons, the BBC, the Hill Times, the New York Times, Science, and many other international media outlets. 


CIFAR COMMUNITY COVID-19 RESEARCH

Nearly one quarter of our Fellows, Advisors, Canada CIFAR AI Chairs and CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars reported a pivot in their work to address COVID-19. The 102 projects span six broad theme areas: 

COVID-19 Response Leadership 
Biology of SARS-CoV-2
Epidemiology & Transmission
35 Medical Countermeasures
Mental Health & Well-being
23 Social & Economic Impact 

Some examples:

Alán Aspuru-Guzik (Fellow, Bio-inspired Solar Energy, Canada CIFAR AI Chair, Vector Institute) is scaling therapeutic molecules, new soaps and coatings, and inhibitors for its reproduction machinery – Aspuru-Guzik is also leading a project to use active learning models to find the most effective surfactants and surface coatings for reducing viral lifetimes. The goal is to reduce their lifetimes to under one hour.

The teams of Yoshua Bengio (Co-director, Learning in Machines & Brains, Canada CIFAR AI Chair, Mila), Jian Tang (Canada CIFAR AI Chair, Mila), graduate student Maksym Korablyov (Université de Montréal), and the Mila startup InVivo AI, has developed a deep reinforcement learning system which can quickly evaluate billions of candidate molecules. The approach can gradually modify the molecular structure by adding or removing building blocks in order to converge toward new molecular structures that can bind a target protein.

Arturo Casadevall (Fungal Kingdom, Johns Hopkins University) is developing a treatment for COVID-19 based on the antibodies of survivors, extracted from blood serum. The treatment has been approved for compassionate use by the US Food and Drug Administration. The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project is now asking for plasma donations from patients who have recovered from COVID-19.

Eran Elinav (Humans & the Microbiome, Weizmann Institute) has converted his institute’s robotics and microbiology expertise to set up a fully-automated, high-throughput SARS-CoV-2 detection system, capable of screening 20,000 diagnostic samples in one run of a few hours. He expects calibrations to be complete the week of March 30, followed by a roll-out to test Israelis, and then sharing the process globally.

David Fleet (Canada CIFAR AI Chair, Vector Institute) and a team of researchers have developed a software program that led to the first 3D mapping of the Coronavirus.

Naama Geva-Zatorsky (CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar, Humans & the Microbiome) is developing a rapid, inexpensive and simple home test kit for coronavirus to be used in Israel. The team is developing a protocol that enables adaptation for home testing with results in less than an hour.

Marzyeh Ghassemi (Canada CIFAR AI Chair, Vector Institute) is using AI for screening and risk stratification of COVID-19 patients  with CT/X-ray data.

Allison Harell (Boundaries, Membership & Belonging, Université de Québec à Montréal) and her team at the Consortium on Electoral Democracy fielded survey questions in Canada at the end of March about levels of fear, personal social distancing behaviour, norms around social distancing, and satisfaction with governments’ handling of the pandemic. Results from the government satisfaction portion of the survey are discussed in this article in Policy Options.  

Susan Helper (Innovation, Equity & the Future of Prosperity, Case Western Reserve University) is providing advice on the best economic policy options available. She has written articles on how hotels and car manufacturers could be repurposed to fight COVID-19, how the US supply chain must change, and articulated broad principles for economic policy during this time. She has also given a talk on the economic impact of coronavirus.

Evan Lieberman (Boundaries, Membership & Belonging, MIT) co-authored a white paper on solidarity, shedding light on the nature of social solidarity and how it might be effectively built and maintained in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arthur McDonald (Gravity & the Extreme Universe, Queen’s University) has organized a team of dark matter scientists at TRIUMF, Chalk River and SNOLAB to build 30,000 ventilators for patients with COVID-19. They are partnering with an international collaboration of dark matter scientists who are applying their experience with gas handling systems and complex control systems to create ventilators that will be small and highly portable, so they can be easily shipped between care sites. The ventilator has been approved for emergency use by the United States Food and Drug Administration and is now awaiting approval by Health Canada.

Quaid Morris (Canada CIFAR AI Chair, Vector Institute) is using AI to explore ways to analyze COVID-19 sequences.

Reihaneh Rabbany (Canada CIFAR AI Chair, Mila) is using data mining of COVID-19 related tweets to discover temporal and spatial trends, as well as common mentions and keywords linked to COVID-19.

Irina Rish (Canada CIFAR AI Chair,Mila) and Guy Wolf (Université de Montréal) are leading a project which leverages data analysis to provide mechanistic understanding of COVID-19 disease progression in order to assess the risk of given medical/patient profiles, as well as to help identify binding targets for antiviral agents and potential vaccines. 

Bo Wang (Canada CIFAR AI Chair, Vector Institute) and collaborators at Vector Institute have released a scientific paper search tool to help with the COVID-19 crisis.The tool provides the most up-to-date capture of relevant research papers to aid researchers around the world. 

Frank Wood (Canada CIFAR AI Chair, Mila) and his collaborators at the PLAI research group at UBC have produced the paper Planning as Inference in Epidemiological Models. The research demonstrates how existing software tools can be used to automate parts of infectious disease-control policy-making via performing inference in existing epidemiological dynamics models.


COVID-19 RESOURCES FOR RESEARCHERS

Challenges

  • The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Call to Action asks ML experts to develop new text and data mining techniques that can help the science community answer high-priority scientific questions related to COVID-19.

    • The CORD-19 resource is available on the Allen Institute’s SemanticScholar.org website and will continue to be updated as new research is published in archival services and peer-reviewed publications.

    • Researchers should submit the text and data mining tools and insights they develop in response to this call to action via the Kaggle platform

Datasets, projects, and other resources

  • CanCOVID is Canada's federally mandated, expert-led COVID-19 research response.

  • Stanford’s list of COVID-19 Imaging AI Resources: The resources were compiled by researchers around the world with the goal of supporting research and education efforts that are critical to better understanding and diagnosing COVID-19.

  • AI Against COVID-19 Canada - Resources, projects, datasets for the AI community.

  • The Embassy of Canada to Belgium and Luxembourg is working to connect Canadian and EU researchers working on COVID-19 responses.The European Commission recently launched the Exscalate4CoV initiative, a project involving 18 research organizations from seven EU countries and Switzerland to simulate and analyze three million molecules per second (with a library of 500 billion molecules) with the aim to identify drugs and treatments for COVID19. 

  • DarwinAI announced COVID-Net, an open source neural network for COVID-19 detection. They are open-sourcing this model to the community in hopes of developing a robust tool to assist health care professionals in combating the pandemic. The source code, documentation, dataset, and scientific paper describing COVID-Net are available at this GitHub repository.

  • Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) Canadian COVID-19 Resources: includes data on health care workers, hospital beds and ventilation, and further health system and spending data.

  • Crowdsourced symptom report and tracking sites:

  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) developed a primer on the science of Coronavirus, with articles summarizing the best available information on the virus, the disease it causes, and the progress of research into treatments, vaccines, epidemiology, and public health. 

  • A team of Canadian researchers, students, activists, and web developers built a resource page with links for scientists, policy makers, and the public. They are compiling lists of research projects, volunteer opportunities, and reagent requirements

  • The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University has convened a rapid response team to bring scholarship to bear on the crisis by providing an avenue for swift dissemination of white papers focused on issues of ethics and governance.

  • Mila researchers are using AI to tackle issues around COVID-19.They are seeking additional collaborators from all areas of computer science and health sciences to strengthen these projects. To join the effort, you are encouraged to reach out at: covid19research@mila.quebec. 

  • Data Scientists Against COVID-19 is a community of data scientists and medical professionals that connects people who have COVID-19 related data and/or require data analysis with researchers who can help.

  • DeepMind has released structure predictions for six proteins associated with the virus that causes COVID-19, generated by the most up-to-date version of its AlphaFold deep learning system. DeepMind is releasing the open license research in consultation with the U.K.’s Francis Crick Institute. Read the full statement. Please note the predictions have not been experimentally verified but may contribute to the research community’s understanding of the virus.

  • Amii is contributing to the global fight against COVID-19, lending scientific expertise, amplifying and augmenting high-impact initiatives, and acting as a catalyst for change. Read Amii’s Executive Brief to learn more.

Roche Data Science Coalition - Led by Hoffmann-La Roche Limited (Roche Canada), this working group brings together public and private organizations – including NVIDIA, DOC.ai, Self Care Catalysts, Health Storylines, Vector Institute, ThinkData Works, and RGAX – to develop translational solutions in three key areas: Patient Support, Insights into Capacity Issues, Research Enhancement.


CONTACT US 

If there are additional resources or ongoing research you would like to see included on this page, please contact:
Elissa Strome, PhD
Executive Director,
Pan-Canadian AI Strategy (CIFAR)
elissa.strome@cifar.ca