Waterloo tech profiles antibodies in blood of COVID-19 patients
By Beth Gallagher. This article was originally published on Waterloo Stories.
A world-leading University of Waterloo spinoff company, that decodes blood samples for potential treatments for illnesses like cancer and COVID-19, is expanding operations with the help of a $5-million USD investment.
Bin Ma, a University of Waterloo computer science professor who co-founded Rapid Novor in 2015, says the company’s technology is the most advanced in the world when it comes to deciphering the complex workings of antibody proteins, a process called sequencing.
Among other projects, Ma’s team is currently decoding the antibodies in the blood of patients who are recovering from COVID-19 with the hopes that the information can be used to develop new treatments. The National Research Council of Canada, through its Industrial Research Assistance Program, has also given the Rapid Novor team a grant to support the coronavirus work.
“The long-term goal is to profile all antibodies in human blood and ultimately provide a brand new way to diagnose disease,” Ma says. “Compared to other protein sequencing technologies, we are faster and more accurate, allowing more complex samples. We are the only team in the world that can sequence antibody proteins from blood directly.”
The recent $5-million USD financing round, led by Co-Win Venture, will allow Rapid Novor, which just tripled its office space at Catalyst 137 in Kitchener, Ont., to hire more scientists.
“The team’s track record for innovation and their ambitious goal to decode immunity attracted us,” said Eric Wen, a Co-Win Venture Partner. “Rapid Novor has built a team of world-class scientists and practitioners in proteomics and bioinformatics. Their unique technologies will have profound impact in the life sciences industry. We are thrilled to be part of this innovative team.”
Ma says his team has already developed a sensitive, non-invasive blood test to monitor patients with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer growing in bone marrow. The test detects a cancer relapse six months earlier than standard medical care.
W Store | Gifts + Apparel Reopening August 4
A message from Print + Retail Solutions.
In close consultation with the University’s Safety Office, Print + Retail Solutions is happy to announce the reopening of their W Store | Gifts + Apparel location on Tuesday, August 4.
Students, staff, faculty and campus visitors are invited to visit W Store | Gifts + Apparel, located in South Campus Hall, to browse their collection of official UWaterloo and Waterloo Warriors apparel and gear, dorm essentials, stationery items, technology products and general supplies.
W Store | Gifts + Apparel’s hours of operation, as of Tuesday, August 4 will be Monday to Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
In accordance with the July 21 announcement from the Office of the President, a face covering must be worn at all times while inside W Store | Gifts + Apparel. Additionally, all shoppers are asked to practice physical distancing wherever possible and to stay home if feeling unwell. The front entrance to the store has been relocated to the doors in-between the staircases leading up to the South Side Marketplace and the Student Success Office, in order to allow more space for physical distancing.
Please note that W Store | Course Materials + Supplies, W Store Essentials SLC and W Store Essentials STC will remain closed to the public at this time. W Store’s computer repair service will remain closed until further notice. W Store will continue to process all orders placed via wstore.ca for door-to-door shipping or contactless curbside pickup.
Meet the Pandemic Challenge Fund finalists
Concept has announced the names of the Pandemic Challenge Fund finalists.
"The COVID-19 outbreak has not only turned our lives around and brought economies to a standstill; it has also surfaced many of the deficiencies of our societies, our health systems and our general preparedness in addressing fast-spreading pandemics," says a post on Concept's blog. "The entrepreneurial community at the University of Waterloo posed a challenge to students to find solutions to some of the big problems that have been unearthed and explore the potential of their ideas. We encouraged students to focus on large issues, and come up with innovative solutions that have the potential to influence policy changes, become a startup or a social venture."
The Pandemic Challenge Fund is a collaborative competition between Concept, Conrad, The Problem Lab, GreenHouse, Centre for Peace Advancement, and the Library that is providing funding to students working on initiatives pertaining to the current pandemic.
The finalists are:
- CodeGem, whicih is a performance management platform that optimizes your development team;
- CPT, which is developing PPE/IPAC training and certification to those in a long-term care home resident’s circle of care;
- Decomp, an organic plastic waste disposal solution that utilizes bioreactor technology to create and maintain the optimal growing conditions for plastic degrading microbes to facilitate the degradation of plastics;
- Fitable, which is creating a Smart Mirror to make fitness/ recreational activities accessible and fun to people with mobility disabilities;
- Masque, which is creating a multilayer cooling and pressure-absorbing-adhesive strips to attach to healthcare worker masks, letting them stay protected in comfort for significantly longer and reducing the risk of exposure to Covid-19;
- OpenMeal, a three-sided platform that bridges the COVID-19 gap between struggling restaurants and individuals who are food insecure through donations raised from fundraising campaigns, while empowering our diners with a power of choice;
- OpenRace, a real-time virtual running app that allows runners to connect and find motivation and helps event organizers increase revenue, reach a larger audience, and provide a more interactive race;
- Scribble, a digital whiteboard for software engineering teams;
- SmrtSmile, a company built around the idea of positivity that allows Canadians to wear a smile while wearing a mask; and
- TaskNanny, a "pal on hire" for improving work from home productivity.
You can watch the pitch videos on Concept's YouTube channel.
The top three teams will take home $3,000 grants to help take their ideas to the next level.
University Police warn of new telephone fraud scam
A new telephone fraud scam is targeting the University of Waterloo.
University Police reports that scammers are phoning potential victims with a doctored call display that comes up as "University of Waterloo Police 519-888-4911." The caller then states that the person's personal information has been compromised and asks for Social Insurance Numbers or asks the party to withdraw money and deposit it into a BitCoin machine.
"In one situation the student contacted provided some limited personal information, but the others did not," says a statement from Alan Binns, director of Police Services. "To date, no financial losses have occurred that we are aware of."
Binns stresses that "under no circumstances would the University of Waterloo Police Services request the Social Insurance Number of any person."
If you receive a call purporting to be from "University of Waterloo Police" that requests any personal information of you, or asks you to make financial payments, immediately hang up and phone UW Police at 519-888-4911 to verify the call and inform them of the attempted fraud.
What's open and closed this long weekend
Is it that time of year already? Monday, August 3 is a Civic Holiday, celebrated on the first Monday of the month in most parts of the country under a variety of names including Simcoe Day in Toronto and John Galt Day in nearby Guelph.
For a University that is still running under limited operations, many faculty and staff won't be affected too much by the holiday Monday.
- The Student Life Centre and the Turnkey Desk are both closed over the long weekend;
- W Store will begin processing online orders placed over the long weekend on Tuesday, August 4;
- Food Services locations have been closed since May 3 and are set to re-open on August 24;
- The Library's chat and email reference services will be available from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. only on Monday, August 3;
- as of Monday, July 27, the Disc Golf Course and CIF fields are open. Please visit the Athletics and Recreation website for more information.
As always, the university police (519-888-4911) will be on the job, as will the central plant staff, who will be monitoring campus buildings. For maintenance emergencies, call ext. 33793.
The Daily Bulletin will return on Tuesday, August 4. Get out there with folks in your bubbles and enjoy some barbecue this weekend.