The Fields Institute Centre for Quantitative Analysis and Modelling announced its partnerships with four Toronto-based startups in September: Agnostiq, Clientelligent, Syndemedic, and Tesseraqt. The centre, comprised of 11 laboratories, aims “to solve real-world problems in science and technology while training the next generation of innovators.”

Agnostiq uses quantum computing to protect client data

Agnostiq, an enterprise security company, is building software that enables users to store their data over a quantum cloud.

Quantum computing can be considered the next stage of innovation in computing. In classical computing, information is stored in bits — the smallest unit of data in a computer — that are represented as one of two binary states.

On the other hand, quantum computers store information as quantum bits, which allows information to be represented in an infinite number of states.

This means that quantum computers can perform extremely complex calculations, which classical computers would not be able to execute, and even break encryption.

Large banks and enterprises are migrating to cloud-based servers to handle “complex workloads” but the cloud environment is vulnerable to attacks, according to Elliot MacGowan, a co-founder of Agnostiq.

“The problem with that is that the cloud environment itself is public,” said MacGowan.

Companies gain a computational advantage by sending workloads to the cloud, but “lose out on security.” Agnostiq creates another layer of encryption in order to allow users to work with their data to ensure that “nobody can listen in or understand what you’re doing.”

Clientelligent used artificial intelligence to predict client behaviour

As a former financial services executive, Darren Cabral, the CEO of Clientelligent, found it challenging to effectively engage with clients and retain them in the investment and wealth management industry.

Cabral co-founded Clientelligent, which applies artificial intelligence (AI) to anticipate client needs and preferences and provide them with more personalized experiences, thus allowing financial companies to grow.

AI can have a transformative effect on corporations, but they often don’t know where to begin or how to implement it, noted Cabral.

Clientelligent “brings to the table a full service, start to finish,” said Cabral. The startup helps companies explore their existing data and use them to attract clients. The startup is now working with various established financial institutions and hopes to recruit new talent through the Fields Institute.

Syndemedic applied math to drug discovery

The cost of researching and developing a new drug can be expensive, and it can take decades to bring a single new drug to the market. Add to this the fact that the failure rate of molecules found through traditional trials is over 90 per cent, and the costs of development quickly pile up.

“Oftentimes you don’t realize that [a] new, very exciting potential cure for Alzheimer’s isn’t going to work until you spend almost a billion dollars on it,” said Mclean Edwards, CEO of Syndemedic.

Syndemedic uses drug design algorithms in computer systems to simulate molecular processes, predicting the side effects and various performance of drugs in development before clinical testing.

This software could help researchers select more effective compounds and could better inform researchers on whether a particular compound will pass clinical testing.

The startup is now working with pharmaceutical research groups to find high-quality compounds that can go through the stream.

Tesseraqt hopes to eliminate side-effects of CRISPR genome engineering

CRISPR, a gene-editing technique, is considered “the holy grail in genome engineering,” said Erno Wienholds, co-founder of Tesseraqt.

However, as a new and upcoming technique, it still comes with many risks, potential side-effects, and off-target effects.

To offset these risks, Tesseraqt uses mathematical systems to predict the outcomes of CRISPR-based genetic modification procedures. While the prototype is still being optimized, Tesseraqt hopes to partner with regenerative medicine companies to develop CRISPR-based gene therapies or manufacture drugs.