COVID-19 Updates

Updates on Vector Institute Facilities & Operations

Public Health Resources

Vector Faculty Initiatives to Fight COVID-19

COVID-19 AI Research Tools


June 17, 2021

RE: COVID-19 Gradual Re-opening – Summer 2021 

Following recent reports that Ontario may soon be ready to move into Step 2 of its Roadmap to Reopen, Toronto Western Hospital has closed its COVID-19 unit as infection numbers continue to decline, and Toronto General Hospital reported that they have no COVID-19 patients in their ICU for the first time in 14-months, the Vector Institute is preparing to re-open its offices under limited conditions.

Based on current projections, it is anticipated that the earliest possible day on which this re-opening may go into effect is July 12, 2021.

Staff and researchers may request access based on either the need to be onsite for business or health & safety reasons; a significant loss of productivity in a work-from-home arrangement; or difficulty with work-from-home arrangements, for example due to loneliness or mental distress.

Those wishing to return to the office for any of the above reasons are welcome to submit an access request by contacting their direct supervisor by Friday June 25, 2021 for access potentially beginning on Monday July 12, 2021, which is a date subject to provincial health regulations that will be confirmed prior to the office re-opening.

Requests should detail the number of days per week as well as the preferred day(s), if applicable, on which the individual would like to be in the office.

 Supervisors will share this information with Vector’s Office Services Manager, who will review requests with the Business Continuity Group. That group will make recommendations on final decisions that take into consideration available workstations, physical capacity restrictions, and social distancing requirements. 

Those who do not request access will continue under work-from-home arrangements at this time. 

Vector will continue to monitor advice from public health officials, government orders, and directives from the property management teams at the MaRS Centre and 700 University Ave. Should this plan change, additional communications will be shared with the community. 

Vector’s updated re-opening plan is attached, which includes questions and answers to common inquiries. 

Click here for PDF version.



If you have a fever and/or new onset of cough or difficulty breathing OR

In the 14 days before symptom onset, you have:

  • been to a COVID-19 impacted area, or
  • you have been in close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, or
  • you have been in close contact with a person with acute respiratory illness who has been to a COVID-19 impacted area,

please delay your visit AND contact your health care provider, or Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000)

Upcoming Vector Events

Status of upcoming events:

If you have questions about an upcoming event, please contact:

Ontario Health Data Platform

  • Vector Institute is providing high-performance computing power for the Ontario Health Data Platform project.
  • The Ontario government launched this project in April to assist in combatting COVID-19.
  • Alignment with government priorities will be the key factor in the assessment of research proposals as well as the feasibility based on available data, and privacy and ethics considerations.
  • The priorities are:
    • Increasing detection of COVID-19
    • Discovering risk factors for vulnerable populations
    • Predicting when and where outbreaks may happen
    • Evaluating how preventative and treatment measures are working
    • Identifying where to allocate equipment and other resources

Innovating through COVID-19 webinar series

Canada’s innovation ecosystem leapt up to find ways to be helpful in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet, critical questions remain unanswered. In response, the Vector Institute is launching the “Innovating Through COVID-19” webinar series to dive deeper on topical issues with leading researchers and innovators.

Digital Contact tracing while Preserving Privacy: The Project

Vector Faculty Member Alán Aspuru-Guzik debuts MyTrace, a digital contact tracing solution, followed by Q&A with Vector President & CEO, Garth Gibson, and Ashleigh Tuite, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto.

AI in the OR: COVID Black Box Improves Safety for Patients and Healthcare Providers

Vector Faculty Member Frank Rudzicz and Vanessa Palter present COVID Black Box, a repurposed version of Surgical Safety Technology’s OR Black Box which records surgical procedures from multiple data sources. COVID Black Box is a low-cost version of this technology aimed at remotely supporting healthcare workers working with COVID-19 patients. A Q&A with Vector President & CEO, Garth Gibson follows.


COVI: Empowering citizens against Covid-19 with an AI-enabled, decentralized contact tracing and risk awareness app

Yoshua Bengio, Joumana Ghosn, Richard Janda, and Abhinav Sharma will give an overview of the rationale, design, ethical considerations, and privacy strategy of COVI, a Covid-19 public peer-to-peer contact tracing and risk awareness mobile application developed in Canada. Their presentation will be followed by moderated audience Q&A with Vector President & CEO, Garth Gibson.

Using AI to Guide Re-Opening Workplaces In Wake Of COVID-19

Avi Goldfarb will present a framework for re-opening workplaces in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Goldfarb is an economist specializing in AI at the Rotman School of Management and Vector Institute, and co-author of the critically acclaimed Amazon best-selling book, Prediction Machines. The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion with Arthur Berrill (RBC), Levi Cooperman (FreshBooks), and Pamela Snively (TELUS Communications) moderated by Vector Institute President and CEO Garth Gibson.





Vector COVID-19 research

Where appropriate data is available, Vector researchers are contributing to a number initiatives to fight COVID-19. 

Vector has also issued a call to its industry sponsors in an effort to create an inventory of talent such as data scientists or engineers that may be available to contribute to related research. 

***This list will be updated regularly

  • FLATTEN is a website that enables individuals to self-report symptoms, view an infection heatmap, and identify regions that have a high density of immunosuppressed and elderly individuals with a goal of helping the government to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 spread. Vector Chief Scientific Advisor Geoffrey Hinton and Vector Faculty Member Marzyeh Ghassemi were advisers on the project. 
  • Developed by Vector students Duncan Forster and John Giorgi and their advisor Vector Faculty Member Bo Wang,, is a scientific paper search and visualization tool that indexes the pre-print servers bioRxiv and medRxiv by paper title using NLP. It is updated daily.
  • Screening and risk stratification of COVID patients with CT and/or X-Ray dataWorking with Joseph Paul Cohen at MILA, Vector Faculty Member Marzyeh Ghassemi is co-leading this project which aims to develop a chest X-ray image classifier for diagnosing COVID-19 from patient chest X-ray images using deep neural networks. This could help as a side tool for resource allocation.
  • AI-driven development of small molecule therapeutics for SARS-CoV-2 – Vector Faculty Member Alan Aspuru-Guzik is leading a project to identify repurposed and small-molecule novel therapeutic candidates to target SARS-COV-2. 
  • Scaling up 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.
  • CryoSPARC, developed by Vector Faculty Member David Fleet and some of his students, was used by US researchers to create the first 3D atomic scale map of the part of the virus that attaches to and infects human cells.
  • Vector Faculty Member Bo Wang and local drug discovery company Cyclica, are using the company’s MatchMaker technology for AI-enabled drug repurposing for COVID-19, in hopes of uncovering non-obvious relationships between all existing drugs and antiviral activity.
  • Vector Faculty Affiliate Jimmy Lin and NYU’s Kyunghyun Cho built Neural Covidex, NLP and IR tools for AI2’s COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19). Essentially search tools for information about COVID-19.
  • Vector Faculty Member Frank Rudzicz is working on a COVID Black Box to remotely support healthcare workers with COVID-19 patients in ICUs and assessment centres across Toronto and Ontario. Using video cameras, deep learning models, and human clinical analysts, the team will analyze 1) hand hygiene, 2) adherence to personal protective equipment protocols, and 3) breaches in safety and system vulnerability in Ontario.
  • Vector Faculty Member Graham Taylor is working with the Arrell Food Institute and Dalhousie Agri-food Analytics lab to perform a short-term forecast of food prices based on the impact of COVID-19.
  • Vector researchers and Industry partners, including Thomson Reuters and Layer 6, jointly applied text and data mining approaches and developed text mining tools that can help the medical community, making two submissions to the Kaggle COVID-19 Open Research Dataset Challenge:
    • Vaccines and therapeutics task (#4) on the topic of finding published concerning research and development and evaluation efforts of vaccines and therapeutics.
    • Non-pharmaceutical interventions task (#6) on the topic of using intervention event context to inform NPI research results search.
  • Vector researchers, industry partners, including Layer 6, and collaborators from the University of Toronto have released a curated open dataset of Canadian non-pharmaceutical interventions (CAN-NPI) to enable robust, inter-jurisdictional comparisons of pandemic response.
  • Vector Faculty Member Alan Aspuru-Guzik debuted the contact tracing app MyTrace during the first installment of Vector’s new Innovating Through COVID-19 webinar series.
  • Vector Institute is part of the Roche Canada Data Science Coalition who launched the UNCOVER Kaggle challenge to advance COVID-19 solutions.
  • #Howsmyflattening is a centralized data analytics and visualization hub monitoring Ontario’s response to COVID-19. Its team includes Vector Faculty Affiliate Laura Rosella. Vector Faculty Member Marzyeh Ghassemi is an advisor.
  • Vector Faculty Affiliate Timothy Chan is part of the team behind Redeploy. It is a tool for hospital redeployment centres to quickly and efficiently redeploy staff to save time, increase responsiveness to urgent needs, and improve staff satisfaction.
  • Vector grad student Bai Li is working with the team behind Cerebus Multivent, an emergency ventilator splitting system.
  • Vector Faculty Affiliate Hamid Tizhoosh and his Kimia Lab are working on CT images of COVID-19 from China to identify the severity of the disease for treatment planning.
  • COVIDFree@Home uses mobile and wearable devices to collect self-reported symptoms from patients recovering from COVID-19 at home in order to predict which patients’ conditions will worsen and require hospitalization. The team includes Vector grad student Daniyal Liaqat and collaborators at UofT, UHN, and Sunnybrook.
  • Vector Faculty Affiliate Maura Grossman helped develop Continuous Active Learning for TAR, an AI-driven search tool to helps researchers quickly mine through new COVID-19 studies.
  • Vector Faculty Member Marzyeh Ghassemi and her team received COVID-19 research funding through the CIHR Rapid Research Response program. They intend to ramp up the GEMINI data for COVID-19 research, by supporting an expansion of the number of hospitals contributing data, the type of data submitted, and the frequency with which it’s added.

COVID-19 research tools

The global scientific community is working diligently to tackle the most immediate scientific questions related to COVID-19. Within this effort is a role for the world’s AI experts, including the extended Vector research community, to help find answers to some of the most vexing problems related to the virus. 

Below is an incomplete list of funding, open-source research and data sets, and other digital tools to help researchers in their work. 

***This list will be updated. If you have relevant links please send to along with a short explanation of the work. 

  • The government of Canada will invest $275 million in additional funding to enhance research capacity on vaccine and antiviral development and clinical trials, including in Canada. This is on top of the $27 million in already announced funding. 
  • The White House issued a call to action to the tech community to develop techniques that can answer scientific questions related to COVID-19. Along with a coalition of leading research groups, it has released the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), a resource of over 29,000 scholarly articles, including over 13,000 with full text, about COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, and related coronaviruses. This freely available dataset is provided to the global research community to apply recent advances in natural language processing and other AI techniques to generate new insights in support of the ongoing fight against this infectious disease.
  • Staff at Element AI have developed a Corona calculator, a tool that helps to visualize the impact of social distancing
  • DeepMind has released structure predictions of several under-studied proteins associated with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 created with their  AlphaFold system. The predictions have not been experimentally verified, but may contribute to the understanding of how the virus functions. 
  • In their response to COVID, researchers in Taiwan combined health insurance data with immigration/customs data as a foundation and then layered travel/medical history to define and triage individual risk.
  • WangLabs have developed, a scientific paper search and visualization tool that indexes the pre-print servers bioRxiv and medRxiv by paper title using NLP. It is updated daily. 
  • Novel Corona Virus 2019 Dataset – day level information on COVID-19 affected cases
  • An open database of COVID-19 cases with chest X-ray or CT images.
  • Public Health Ontario has uploaded genomic data for the virus to NextStrain, which offers real-time tracking of pathogen evolution. 
  • A small drug repurposing study.
  • A map of COVID-19 cases in Canada put together by students from the Dalla-Lana School of Public Health.  
  • GISAID: Global viral genome sequences and epidemiological data.
  • Coronavirus Tech Handbook was put together by a group of physicians and techies around the globe in order to populate a centralized open resource.
  • The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2” from Nature Medicine.
  • FLATTEN is a website that enables individuals to self-report symptoms, view an infection heatmap, and identify regions that have a high density of immunosuppressed and elderly individuals with a goal of helping the government to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 spread.
  • #Howismyflattening  is a group of physicians, medical students, computational health researchers, designers, and epidemiologists rapidly filtering and presenting emergent COVID-19 data to help Ontarians #FlattenTheCurve. They connect experts and present data in an easy-to-digest, actionable way to help Ontarians and Public Health Leaders act decisively as evidence grows and time ticks by.
  • The NRC’s COVID-19 Challenge Program brings together a national network of researchers and scientific facilities to address pressing needs and challenges. Composed of teams of government, academic, and private-sector partners it will address a range of medium-term Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada needs.
  • COVID-19 genomic information being uploaded to GISAID.
  • The British Society of Thoracic Imaging (BSTI) have built a free to use, anonymised and encrypted online portal to upload and refer imaging of patients with either confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
  • Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance – What the next 18 months can look like, if leaders buy us time.
  • InFact’s Coordinated global research response.
  • The effect of travel restrictions on the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak” from Science.
  •  COVID-Net is a convolutional neural network for COVID-19 detection via chest radiography created by DarwinAI’s research team, in conjunction with the University of Waterloo. DarwinAI is open sourcing it to the research community and giving academics access to their explainability platform so they can contribute to the project.
  • Kaggle COVID-19 Open Research Dataset Challenge.
  • CIFAR is issuing a targeted call for AI and COVID-19 interdisciplinary research collaborations to spark innovative, high-risk/high-reward ideas and projects. CIFAR’s Catalyst Program provides seed funding (up to $15,000 CAD) for time-limited activities. The deadline for applications is April 3, 2020 11:59 EDT.
  • Mapping the landscape of artificial intelligence applications against COVID-19,” a white paper, co-authored by Sasha Luccioni from MILA.
  • U of T is launching an action fund to support research that will make near-term contributions to the fight against COVID-19. The university has already invested $5 million and is aiming to match that amount with a call for donations. They have issued a call to faculty for research proposals by March 30.
  • The White House announced the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium to provide COVID-19 researchers worldwide with access to the world’s most powerful high performance computing resources that can significantly advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus.
  • A call-to-action from Myant to work together to enable remote screening and a connected care solution to COVID-19 for vulnerable populations.
  • #Hackthecurve is a new challenge from the DMZ at Ryerson. Over a two-week period, teams of up to five participants will compete for $10,000 in cash prizes by seeing who can develop an innovative technology solution to help flatten the pandemic’s curve.
  • Element AI has released  a beta of a free search platform to help workers find answers and patterns in research papers by locating relevant work across thousands of published papers.
  • COVID-19 Archive is a collection of selected COVID-19 related news articles, categorized by date.
  • AI Against COVID-19 Canada is a special task force, led by researchers from CIFAR, Mila – Quebec Artificial Research Institute, the Vector Institute ,and Amii, aiming to map and coordinate AI projects in Canada that can help solve the COVID-19 outbreak and limit its impact on society.
  • Ontario Centres of Excellence: COVID-19 Collaboration Platform – for those with a COVID solution-seeking collaborators or those with a complete solution.
  • The Digital Technology Supercluster Call for COVID-19 Solutions.
  • CODEVID-19 is an Edmonton-based, grassroots hackathon building rapid solutions to problems facing all citizens during the pandemic. Produced by the Dev Edmonton Society, the hackathon runs until the end of April, with weekly prizes awarded for app submissions. More than 1,500 developers and domain experts from 10 countries have already joined.
  • The SOSCIP COVID-19 Response aims to provide rapid access to high-performance computing (HPC) resources, fast-tracking compute space for collaborators committed to responding to COVID-19.
  • MITACS is expanding its support for innovation and R&D, as well as support for small businesses in the fight against COVID-19.
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