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Science is the exit strategy

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged every organization, including CIFAR, to rapidly pivot and help address this crisis. CIFAR’s research community is responding to COVID-19 in many important ways, including retooling labs and launching new projects that will help us navigate our road to the new normal.

CIFAR Virtual Talks explore leading research from across the globe through conversations with researchers and innovators.

We are committed to supporting research that matters in these difficult times. If you believe in this important work and enjoy free public events like these, please consider making a gift to the  COVID-19 Action Fund

Upcoming Virtual Talks

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Recent Virtual Talks

Brian Dias: Inheriting emotional trauma

The latest research suggests that many animals, including humans, pass trauma on to their children through epigenetic markers. Knowing this, could the pandemic trauma of lost lives, jobs, and opportunities have effects that ripple through generations? CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar alumnus Brian Dias (University of Southern California), now an associate fellow in CIFAR’s Child & Brain Development program, discussed the latest findings from his research on intergenerational trauma.

Megan Azad, Michael Kobor & Candice Odgers: The hidden costs of COVID-19 on children

Even if they avoid the worst direct effects of the virus, children may be particularly sensitive to the longer-term stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the economic downturn and social distancing policies. Join CIFAR Fellows Meghan Azad (University of Manitoba), Michael Kobor (University of British Columbia), and Candice Odgers (University of California, Irvine), three members of a project team supported by the Manulife CIFAR Population Health & Well-being Grant Program, as they investigated how the pandemic will affect children’s brains, immune systems, and ability to thrive.

Eran Elinav & Naama Geva-Zatorsky: Next Generation Diagnostic Tests

The core of any effective response to COVID-19 must be a robust testing strategy. On September 10, 2020, CIFAR Fellow Eran Elinav (Weizmann Institute of Science) and CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar Naama Geva-Zatorsky (Technion), both members of CIFAR’s Humans & the Microbiome program, joined CIFAR's Rachel Parker to discuss how they have quickly pivoted their research toward the development of two different COVID-19 diagnostic tests, one using high-throughput robots and the other using at-home saliva kits.

Alan Bernstein & Arturo Casadevall: The sick & the healthy: how can we help each other? 

On August 20, Alan Bernstein and Arturo Casadevall discussed the state of rapid research into treatment and protection of COVID-19 patients. What can we learn from the 19th century technique of using antibody-rich plasma from survivors to treat the sick? What is the state of affairs with respect to international vaccine development? What unites these two tracks and what separates them?

Kim McGrail: Building a Learning Health System for Canadians

On August 6, Kim McGrail, Professor at University of British Columbia and Scientific Director, Health Data Research Network Canada, joined CIFAR’s Elissa Strome to discuss how access to data from across Canada could revolutionize our understanding of health and disease. 

Kim McGrail and Elissa Strome are members of the AI4Health Task Force, convened by CIFAR from September 2019 to February 2020, to outline recommendations for an integrated and coordinated national approach for an AI for health strategy.


Carly Kind & Michael Geist: Governance, Tech and the Pandemic

On July 28, Carly Kind, Director, Ada Lovelace Institute and Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair at the University of Ottawa, joined CIFAR’s Rebecca Finlay to discuss the impact of contact tracing apps in Canada and the UK. What do the debates on contact tracing apps in both countries tell us about broader governance questions related to AI? How can policy makers navigate these questions effectively? 

Carly Kind and Michael Geist participated in CIFAR's Expert Advisory Group and International Roundtable on Novel Technologies in a Pandemic that led to the April 30th Report for Canada's Chief Science Advisor: Society, Technology and Ethics in a Pandemic.


Stephen Reicher: Addressing the Psychology of ‘Together Apart’

On July 9, Stephen Reicher, a fellow in CIFAR’s Boundaries, Membership and Belonging program and professor at the University of St. Andrews, drew on social identity theory and research to discuss what measures can help us through the current pandemic, with Kate Geddie, Senior Director, Research at CIFAR.


Tim Besley: Government Responses to Covid-19: Economics, Politics and The Role of Scientific Advice

On June 22, 2020, Tim Besley, a fellow in CIFAR’s Institutions, Organizations & Growth program and an economist at the London School of Economics, drew on economic and political theory to discuss governments’ pandemic responses with Rebecca Finlay, Vice President, Engagement & Public Policy, CIFAR.  


Yoshua Bengio: Empowering Citizens to Act on COVID-19 with AI-Powered Infection Risk Prediction 

On June 10, Yoshua Bengio, Canada CIFAR AI Chair at Mila, co-director of CIFAR’s Learning in Machines & Brains program, and professor at l’Université de Montréal joined Antoine Petit, a member of CIFAR’s Research Council and the chairman and CEO  of CNRS, to discuss COVI, a new AI-powered contact-tracing and risk prediction app. 


Hendrik Poinar: What past pandemics can teach us about COVID-19

On June 4, 2020, Hendrik Poinar, a fellow in CIFAR’s Humans & the Microbiome program and an evolutionary geneticist at McMaster University, drew on ancient DNA analysis, anthropology, and history to discuss what past pandemics and plagues can teach us about COVID-19 with Kate Geddie, Senior Director, Research at CIFAR. 



Marzyeh Ghassemi and Joseph Paul Cohen: Using X-rays and machine learning to more accurately predict COVID-19 severity 

On May 21, 2020, Canada CIFAR AI Chair Marzyeh Ghassemi and Joseph Paul Cohen (Mila) joined Elissa Strome, Executive Director of the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, to discuss a new AI and COVID-19 Catalyst Grant project applying the latest machine learning techniques to X-ray scans in order to predict COVID-19 severity.  

Thom McDade: Community-based approaches to COVID-19 screening 

On April 30th, 2020, CIFAR Fellow Thom McDade explained why widespread antibody testing for COVID-19 is important, and how a paper-based test could help authorities better understand the extent of the pandemic.