Canadian life science companies leveraging artificial intelligence expertise to save lives
Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the ways in which companies operate and interact.
In the life sciences sector, Canadian innovators are harnessing AI to support researchers, clinicians and patients by:
- Standardizing the way patients are assessed and treated;
- Diagnosing conditions and diseases earlier and with more accuracy;
- Lowering barriers to healthcare and the burden on healthcare facilities;
- Simulating clinical scenarios to improve training and revalidation of clinicians;
- Condensing large amounts of medical research into practical content for clinicians;
- Automating tasks to improve clinical efficiency;
- Reducing uncertainty for clinicians through decision support tools; and
- Analyzing large health data sets to improve research efficiency.
Canada is home to more than 600 AI researchers and three world‑class AI institutes — the Vector Institute in Toronto, the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (Mila) and the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (AMII) in Edmonton. Canada’s thriving AI ecosystem is supported by the Pan‑Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy – a five‑year, $125 million plan to support research and attract talent in AI that will contribute to that growth. Launched in March 2017, the strategy is the first fully funded one of its kind and has inspired similar strategies in 18 other countries.
Montreal‑based start‑up InVivo AI has partnered with Mila to develop novel algorithms for drug discovery in low‑data environments. Its solutions can reduce the time and costs involved in the drug discovery phase, enabling life science organizations to commercialize treatments faster. The company’s initial focus is on targeted therapeutics for cancers and rare diseases.
“Being based at Mila allows us to work with researchers to apply their research to real‑world settings. Recruiting talent out of universities is also very important — everyone on our team has a PhD or post‑doctoral work,” explains Therence Bois, Co‑Founder and Director of Operations at InVivo AI.
Bois adds that the exchange of knowledge goes both ways.
“We’re at the intersection of deep learning and life sciences. We help researchers understand that AI won’t replace them — instead, it’s a tool that can amplify their work.”
Toronto‑based digital health company Mobio Interactive has used AI to develop a mindfulness app designed primarily to treat cancer patients. It guides users through meditation and objectively measures their stress levels.
“How you feel and your ability to communicate with your body is extremely important to the prognosis of cancer. Our app is clinically validated — it’s the first to beat the placebo in randomized trials — so we can verify that it’s effective,” explains Bechara Saab, CEO and CSO at Mobio Interactive.
The company collaborated with universities on government‑funded research trials to develop the technology.
“Canada has been forward‑thinking to put money into AI. The core technology we use to determine stress levels was kicked off by federally funded research at the University of Waterloo. Our app was validated at the University of Toronto through a clinical trial funded by the Government of Ontario,” says Saab.
Mobio Interactive is continuing to evolve its technology, using machine learning to personalize the user experience.
“AI on its own does nothing. It needs a purpose. That’s the most exciting part for me — creating something that will make a difference in people’s lives,” says Saab.
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