Our journey into contact tracing: The MyTrace/MaTrace project.

Words of thank you to all the community that helped build our project.

Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Zamyla Morgan Chan, and Si Yue Guo

University of Toronto and Vector Institute

A global threat such as a pandemic requires everyone to do their part. As scientists with an applied inclination, we asked ourselves what our research group could do to fight the pandemic. We are indeed engaged in what is perhaps the most natural contribution from our lab, artificial intelligence for drug discovery. The problem with such an effort is that it was not going to be impactful in the short term. We may post in this venue an update on that effort in the coming future.

When we found out about the efforts from MIT’s team on SafePaths, a privacy-preserving mobile app that proposed to use GPS and Bluetooth to assist the process of contact tracing, we saw an opportunity to make a valuable contribution to help Canada come out at the other end of the pandemic curve and reactivate the economy.

We assembled a team of academics, doctors and doctors in training, entrepreneurs, software developers, and other volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds. Together we founded MyTrace/MaTrace, a nonprofit initiative to develop a Canadian mobile app for digital contract tracing. Guided by our research into technologies and approaches, we sought to develop an app that maximized the positive impact on public health while demonstrating the utmost protection of individual privacy and data security.

With the announcement today of a nation-wide contact tracing app, we are closing shop at MyTrace. We are very happy to hear of a nation-wide solution for digital exposure notification and support the widespread adoption of this app. 

We are confident that the app announced today will be a practical, effective tool in the fight against the pandemic, one that does not sacrifice our cherished Canadian values. While the infection curves are flattening, this solution will be crucial as our society reopens and as we work to prevent subsequent waves of the pandemic. 

Our journey with MyTrace was truly inspirational. It epitomized the perseverance, ingenuity, altruism, and dedication of our talented and diverse community in a time of urgency and challenge.

We wish to thank everyone who has participated in and supported us in our endeavour.

CIFAR for the COVID-19 Catalyst Fund, the Vector Institute, and the University of Toronto 

Members of the Matter Lab:

Tony Wu, Jakob Kottman, Thi Ha Kyaw, Claire Yu, Luis Martin Mejia Mendoza, Abhinav Anand, Teresa Tamayo, Skylar Chaney, Luca Thiede, Jose Dario Perea

Partners: 

Ryan Doherty and Sabrina Tang at Empower Health; the team at 247 Labs led by Azwar Khalid

Members and students of the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine: 

Kashif Pirzada, Suleiman Furmli, Amirpouyan Namavarian, Abdulkarim Muhaseen, Abdul Sidiqi, Andrew Lam, and the rest of the Open Tracers team  

Community volunteers:

Myles Kaufman (Even.law), Jeffrey Kaufman (Kaufman Law)

Cole Zemel (UofT undergraduate student), James Cook

Advisory board:

Vivek Goel, Alan Bernstein, Rebecca Finlay, Marzyeh Ghassemi, Nicolas Papernot, Tomi Poutanen, Jordan Jacobs, Michael Geist 

Speakers in our workshop: 

Lawrence Loh, Peter Miasnikof, Andrew Law, Francisco Grajales, Nelson Shen, James Petrie, Dilshan Kathriarachchi, Jason Millar, Ann Cavoukian, Brenda McPhail 

We also wish to give special thanks to Cameron Schuler, Richard Zemel, and Garth Gibson, from the Vector Institute for his constant support and advice.

We thank the MIT Safepaths developers, the COVI team at MILA, the EQWorks team and 40N for useful discussions during the development of the application and wish them success in their future endeavours.

Finally, we want to thank all others who engaged in excellent dialogue about contact tracing in the digital age!

Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Zamyla Morgan Chan, and Si Yue Guo