The Pulse: Jan. 19, 2022

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • -13°C: Sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 13. Wind chill minus 35 in the morning and minus 19 in the afternoon. Risk of frostbite. (forecast)
  • 1,089: Alberta has 1,089 patients in hospital due to COVID-19, including 104 in intensive care. The province reported nine new deaths on Jan. 18. (details)

A portrait of AltaML co-founder Cory Janssen

AltaML partners with venture capital firm to combine AI and life sciences expertise

By Emily Rendell-Watson Emily Rendell-Watson

AltaML has formed a strategic alliance with Amplitude Venture Capital, a top Canadian firm focused on life sciences and building precision medicine companies. The partnership will look to leverage the possibility of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the biotechnology sector.

"AI is a horizontal enabler — there's no AI industry per se. You've got to actually do something," AltaML co-founder Cory Janssen told Taproot. "So this example of actually teaming up within life sciences is really taking advantage of the talent that is here."

The Edmonton-grown AI studio will share a team member with Amplitude as part of the alliance: AltaML's data science health lead, Alex Hope. He will help to identify investment opportunities, with a focus on Alberta in particular, as well as "projects where the two companies can work together to create, build, and grow a talent base by combining AI acumen with life science expertise."

AltaML, which started developing AI software in Edmonton in 2017, will access Amplitude's expertise to deepen the company's health focus, especially in commercialization.

"By having access to that network and connections, it opens up the door for possibilities for us right here in Edmonton," Janssen said.

"I would argue that there's benefits to this for any startup or researcher that's looking to commercialize innovations at the intersection of health and data."

In turn, AltaML will provide AI expertise for Amplitude's portfolio.

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By Mack Male Mack Male and Doug Johnson Doug Johnson

  • Recent rapid temperature and weather swings are causing city road crews to pivot rapidly between measures to deal with snow, wind, and melting ice on local streets. "This is a rare January," said Andrew Grant, general supervisor of infrastructure field operations with the City of Edmonton. "But we are prepared. We do have a lot of tools available to us. We're using all of them as the conditions require." Grant will answer questions about snow and ice removal from members of the media each day this week at 10:30 a.m.
  • The city has launched a new Service Level Dashboard which shows the status of public services related to COVID-19. The dashboard will be updated daily, and the city said it was "developed with GBA+ considerations for visual challenges like colour blindness."
  • The Edmonton Public School Board has voted unanimously to advocate for the province to add more locations where kids can receive COVID-19 vaccinations, including at school-based clinics and by introducing mobile vaccination clinics. As of Jan. 18, 41.5% of Alberta children aged five to 11 had received a first dose. Just 5.5% had received a second dose.
  • The Professional Triathletes Organization is partnering with the city and Do North Events for the PTO Canada Open, a new international triathlon tour that, organizers plan, will start in Edmonton this summer.
  • George Arcand Jr., who became the Treaty 6 Grand Chief on Jan. 7, wants to deal with issues during his one-year term in a "more strategic manner" and that starts with getting the 17 members of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations aligned. Arcand said homelessness, access to programs and services, and economic opportunities are some of the key urban issues to be addressed.
  • Former Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston — who has been convicted of hate crimes, three counts of contempt, and criminal harassment of an AHS employee — was released on bail and will be staying under house arrest with a friend in Edmonton. Johnston was picked up at the U.S. border after attempting to flee the country after failing to show up to serve jail sentences. "Mr. Johnston is a handful," said prosecutor Peter Mackenzie. "Mr. Johnston does not respect traditional authority."
  • A committee made up of UCP and NDP MLAs has begun work on examining the possibility of setting up a safe supply of drugs in an effort to reduce the number of overdose deaths in Alberta. Safe supply — which has been rolled out in Vancouver and other jurisdictions around Canada — sees drugs of a known dosage and purity given to people with a dependency on them.
  • Immunocompromised adult Albertans can now get their fourth vaccine dose, the province announced on Jan. 18. Around 80,000 people are eligible. "Providing a fourth dose to these individuals is equivalent to a third dose for others," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health.
  • The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has prompted the Provincial Court of Alberta to adjourn all non-urgent trials until Feb. 4. "The Provincial Court will continue to ensure that all urgent matters are heard. The Court continues to hear all in-custody matters as well as all urgent out-of-custody criminal matters," Chief Judge Derek Redman said in a press release.