May 6, 2020
I hope that everyone has continued to stay safe and healthy as the world continues to grapple with the risks and challenges presented by COVID-19. The impacts of the pandemic have been felt by individuals and organizations across society, including cancer patients and Ontario’s cancer research community.
While things are obviously not business as usual, I am happy to see OICR’s people rise to the challenge and find solutions to allow us to continue to focus on cancer research while working remotely. My thanks go to OICR’s staff, Board and Scientific Advisory Boards, collaborators and others who have quickly adapted to continue our work as best we can. A big thank you also to our funders at the Ministry of Colleges and Universities for their continued support. We will gradually restore our onsite cancer research activities in a manner that will ensure a safe work environment for all our onsite staff. Our priority remains to improve the lives of those with cancer through research.
OICR’s leadership recognizes that the pandemic has resulted in unprecedented challenges for cancer researchers across Ontario. We have taken steps to ease this burden and are working with OICR-funded researchers and partner organizations to overcome these challenges together. More information about how we are assisting our funded researchers can be found on our website.
Due to our collaborative, cross-disciplinary research strengths, OICR is well-situated to contribute to COVID-19 research. OICR researchers are engaged in numerous projects with others in Ontario and abroad. It has been heartening to see such a swell of collaborative spirit and to see the research community doing what we can to help overcome COVID-19. I invite you to visit our website to learn more about how OICR is doing its part. We are especially cognizant on how these research activities impact cancer patients, as they are an especially vulnerable population at this time.
COVID-19 has disrupted cancer research on a global scale. I look forward to a time when we can resume all of our research activities and once again contribute to the international campaign against cancer at full capacity. During the pandemic, cancer has not and will not cease to be a reality for the thousands of Ontarians living with this disease and their families. Everyone at OICR remains steadfast in our commitment to improve the lives of those facing cancer.
In closing, I offer my deepest appreciation to all those working on the front lines of this crisis and thank all off the members of Ontario’s cancer research community for their continued dedication during this difficult time. All our thoughts also go out to any families that have been affected during this crisis.
Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi
President and Scientific Director
April 16, 2020
Former OICR intern leads the development of a COVID-tracking site used by more than 400,000 people in Canada to date
Flatten is quickly becoming a go-to source of information about how COVID-19 is spreading across Canada.
In less than a month, more than 400,000 people have submitted data on their symptoms, travel history, age and medical conditions, making Flatten the country’s leading crowdsourced COVID data repository.
Behind the project is a team of first- and second-year university students who are determined to help.
“We just wanted to put our technical skills to good use during this time,” says Vice President of Flatten, Yifei Zhang, in a University of Waterloo story. “It’s been great working together with everybody trying to build a platform that will be useful for Canadians across the country.”
As a web-based, data-gathering platform, Flatten provides a real-time heat map of self-reported confirmed and potential COVID-19 cases across the country. The platform helps increase awareness and flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases.
Over the last four weeks, Flatten has rapidly evolved from an idea into an incorporated non-profit organization, with support from advisors such as Dr. Geoffrey Hinton and sponsors such as Google Cloud, the Vector Institute and CIFAR.
The team behind Flatten has established collaborations with health authorities across Canada, such as in Montreal, and plans to work with other municipal governments and provinces..
“We work with leading advisors and collaborators to make sure we’re surveying the right questions and providing the right information for Canadians today to help flatten the curve,” says Zhang.
Zhang, who is completing his second year as a software engineering student at the University of Waterloo and leads Flatten’s website development, attributes his website development knowledge to his internship with OICR’s WebDev team.
“My time at OICR reinforced my interest in working in health and biology, giving me the motivation and drive to pursue this initiative,” says Zhang. “At OICR, I gained experience working with a high volume of data using robust techniques and I was able to bring that knowledge into developing Flatten.ca. A lot of the fundamentals we used to build this site came from best practices that I learned from my term at OICR.”
Learn more at flatten.ca.