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BlueDot: How an Algorithm Can Predict Infectious Diseases


When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it crippled the healthcare system worldwide. What’s worse, it also brought the global economy to an almost complete halt. The truth is, had governments acted sooner, thousands of deaths could have easily been prevented.

This is the pure intention behind the creation of BlueDot. Having experienced infectious disease outbreaks over the years, Dr. Kamran Khan created the AI platform to identify COVID-19’s threats.

Posed as an outbreak risk software, BlueDot counts as the most reputable near-real-time system helping an array of institutions better track the progress of COVID-19. BlueDot is scientifically backed and transparent. It has been foreseen which countries might be stricken by the pandemic strike next - ever since December 2019. With a mighty weapon in their arsenal, Dr. Kamran and his team just might be the greatest heroes of our day and age.

Stay tuned for this awe-inspiring story, one of personal perseverance and dedication for the good of the world.

An Epidemiologist in the Thick of the Epicenter

Dr. Kamran Khan is the founder and CEO of Blue Dot. He is also an infectious disease physician and scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, as well as an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto.

Not much information about his early days has been made readily available. However, it’s evident that his passion for medicine has been a driving force in his life and work. After obtaining his P.h.D. in Medicine at the University of Toronto, Dr. Kamran became employed as a clinician-scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, and soon after, a Medical Advisor for the World Health Organization, where he retains his status to this day.

His main field of study has always been the spread of infectious diseases. Specifically, the way that human population mobility and density can turn into determining factors in the spreadability of modern-day diseases.

The 2003 SARS outbreak is what initially kick-started his research into infectious diseases and how they can spread globally through commercial air travel.

This was the blueprint that ultimately became the basis for BlueDot.

The Spread of an Idea

After finishing his studies in New York City in 2003, the first-ever SARS outbreak occurred in his hometown of Toronto. Dr. Kamran had just begun work at St. Michael’s Hospital and saw the potential devastation that this virus could cause his city - and the world.

This is where he began brainstorming for an idea and a possible solution. With the medical and technological advances of today, it is theoretically possible to prevent any disease from spreading on a global level. This is what drove Dr. Kamran to start a scientific program meant to study how easily infectious diseases can be spread through our modern-day world.

In 2009, he turned that idea into BioDiaspora. It was a research program that identified and analyzed how a few passengers from Mexico spread the H1N1 virus to the rest of the world - in a single flight. This garnered the attention of Public Health England, where he soon used BioDiaspora to track the possibility and probability of an infectious disease outbreak at the London Summer Olympics in 2012.

With a successful track record and a team of medical scientists behind him, in 2014 Dr. Kamran garnered the attention of the private investment group Horizons Ventures. This was the moment when he decided to change the project’s name to BlueDot – and where the innovative program was first set into motion.

This is also the year that marked the beginning of George, an application that uses BlueDot’s software to keep travelers informed about current infectious diseases and stay updated on the global epidemiologic environment. It’s currently available on both the App Store and Google Store.

It took Dr. Kamran a decade to see his plan out in its entirety. However, his knowledge of infectious diseases and modern-day human population patterns were what ultimately proved pivotal in the creation of BlueDot, while his drive to help people on a mass scale helped elevate the platform to the worldwide stage.

Success is a Symptom of Support

For their successful and devoted work, BlueDot was given the status of a Certified B Corporation in 2013, a title awarded to companies that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance.

Only a year later, having received recognition for their potential and line of successful work in predicting, reporting, and analyzing the effects of the Ebola virus, BlueDot was crowned winner of the Health and Wellness category at the Canadian Innovation Awards. In that same year, they also received the Innovation Award from the Manning Innovation Awards.

On a more personal level, Dr. Kamran was also given the Governor General’s Innovation Award in 2018 for creating BlueDot and showcasing exceptional drive to positively impact the overall quality of life in Canada.

For their contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic, they received the Innovation Award at the Les Prix Canie Awards in 2020 for the work they did in identifying, informing, and helping Canadians stay up-to-date with information on the novel Coronavirus.

The Price of Health

Since their initial interest back in 2014, Horizons Ventures has been the main partner and investor for BlueDot, providing $400,000 in seed funding to help further develop its business strategy, intellectual property, and market plans. In the same year, the Ontario Centres of Excellences provided BlueDot with an additional $140,000.

Aside from private investors and anonymous donations, they received Series A financing in 2019 from BDC Capital’s Women in Technology Venture Fund, alongside Horizons Ventures, for $7,000,000. For their work in reporting, identifying, analyzing, and providing information to people during the COVID-19 outbreak, they received a major influx of investors, which included Golden Ventures, the co-operators, and the Ontario Centre of Innovation.

Tackling a problem like an infectious disease requires a team of highly skilled people. At the same time, however, groups of interested individuals who would appropriately fund that battle are equally as indispensable. That’s why Dr. Kamran hopes for more exposure and support across the world to hopefully provide further support in their fight against any future outbreaks.

The Future of BlueDot

There is no questioning the importance of BlueDot going forward. If there is anything that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world, it’s the importance of sharing information and doing so quickly and efficiently.

Since his first-hand witnessing of the devastation that an infectious disease can have back in 2003, Dr. Kamran has been dedicating his life to help others. Governments, businesses, and everyday people can now successfully combat pandemics and ongoing infectious diseases. However, his work is still far from complete.

BlueDot’s team currently comprises over 80 people, ranging from experts in clinical medicine, data science, public health, all the way to software development, mathematical modeling, and design. Their main goal is to accurately track information about potential diseases and stop each and every possibility of them spreading – whether by accident or otherwise.

Their work has also garnered global attention from 12 public health agencies across the world. All these are currently using BlueDot’s cloud platform to manage and analyze any potential outbreaks. Dr. Kamran’s initial interest in protecting people from infectious diseases was rooted in the ease with which they could spread with air travel. Therefore, he has successfully managed to partner up with Air Canada, who are now using BlueDot as the main software to detect and report potential diseases for their passengers.

Dr. Kamran’s technological advancements in the realm of AI are downright remarkable. But, he only hopes that taking quality medical knowledge worldwide in seconds will become the universal key that unlocks the door to scientific potential yet unheard of!