On Monday, the Government of Canada announced that is has signed a deal with Toronto healthtech startup BlueDot, to use the company’s disease analytics platform to track the spread of COVID-19.

Quebec City-based Medicago has identified a viable plant-based vaccine candidate for COVID-19 and is begun pre-clinical testing.

BlueDot has developed what is touted as a first-of-its-kind, early warning technology for infectious diseases. Its platform uses artificial and human intelligence to track the spread and impact of more than 150 infectious diseases globally. BlueDot was one of the first companies in the world to identify the spread of COVID-19. The startup’s tracking platform picked up a cluster of cases around Wuhan, China on December 30, nine days before the World Health Organization released its statement alerting people to the emergence of COVID-19.

Minister of Industry Navdeep Bains said in a press conference on Monday, that the federal government will be using BlueDot’s platform to help Canada track and monitor the virus. The federal government will also be using data collected by BlueDot to make future decisions related to COVID-19.

“The Government of Canada, through the Public Health Agency of Canada, will use its disease analytics platform to support modelling and monitoring of the spread of COVID-19, and to inform government decision-making as the situation evolves,” the government noted in a press release.

The project with BlueDot comes as the federal government has committed $192 million to new projects that will be prioritized under the new Strategic Innovation Fund COVID-19 stream.

As part of this initiative, Bains noted on Monday that Medicago, a Quebec City-based company with 20 years of experience in plant-based vaccines and therapeutics, has identified a viable plant-based vaccine candidate for COVID-19. The vaccine candidate is currently at the pre-clinical testing phase and Medicago is set to receive funding to help it rapidly move forward on clinical trials and quickly shift to scaling up production of the potential vaccine. This past weekend, the Government of Quebec also announced it will be contributing $7 million to help Medicago with the progress of the vaccine.

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Vancouver-based biotech company AbCellera has also received funding. Its technology is being used to search blood samples of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to find naturally-produced antibodies. AbCellera has partnered with global biopharmaceutical company Eli Lilly to rapidly manufacture and distribute a treatment with the goal of beginning clinical trials in July 2020. Other universities and research centres are also receiving significant funding to help find cures and other solutions for COVID-19 care.

BlueDot, formerly known as BioDiaspora, was founded in 2008 and spun out of a partnership between St. Michael’s Hospital and MaRS Innovation. The company, which rebranded in 2014, raised $9.2 million CAD in 2019, in a round co-led by Canadian insurance group The Co-operators and BDC Capital’s Women in Technology Venture Fund.

BlueDot was previously able to predict the outbreak of the Zika virus in Florida, six months before it occurred. Since its last funding round, the startup deployed its BlueDot Insights product, providing global infectious disease surveillance and early warning system in several hospitals across North America, 12 public health agencies around the world, and within Air Canada.

Image source BlueDot

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