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Dr. Kamran Khan

Location: Toronto, ON

Award: Innovation Award

Category: Technology

Year: 2018

Innovation:

Explorer by BlueDot

Dr. Kamran Khan and his team at BlueDot are harnessing big data, artificial intelligence, and the worldwide adoption of mobile technologies to spread knowledge faster than disease.

In 2003, the world experienced a devastating epidemic from a virus we had never seen before. SARS plagued more than 8000 victims, across 37 countries, eventually claiming more than 700 lives. Shortly after Dr. Khan returned to Toronto to start his career as an academic physician-scientist, there was a deadly SARS outbreak that lasted four months.

While the world had never seen an outbreak like this before, it was clear we would face more in the future. This realization, and with his experience with SARS, prompted Dr. Khan to question the existing outdated analytical approaches to confront these 21st century threats. Negotiating a first-of-its-kind licensing agreement with the global airline industry to use data from billions of flight itineraries, he began to develop scientific methods to predict the global spread of dangerous diseases.

Dr. Khan saw business, leveraging science and technology, as a vehicle to mitigate the risks of infectious diseases. In 2013, BlueDot was incorporated, and soon after, Dr. Khan led the development of Explorer, a web-based application that uses geographic information systems technology to integrate, analyze and visualize high-value diverse data to help countries better prepare for and respond to dangerous global infectious disease threats.

With Dr. Khan’s leadership, BlueDot has grown into a company of fifty highly skilled employees, operating in twelve different countries. It is building an early warning system for infectious diseases that tracks outbreaks around the world, assesses their worldwide potential for spread and impact, and distributes insights to governments, businesses, frontline healthcare workers, and the public, using a variety of web and mobile technologies.

Dr. Khan’s work has the potential to revolutionize how the public health agencies – in Canada and across the globe – harness the power of data to mitigate risk and inform decisions.