Tag Archives: Stars in Global Health

Canada Grand Challenges May 2014 grants

Grand Challenges Canada (mentioned here many times including this Nov. 21, 2013 posting which featured their ‘Stars in Global Health’ programme grants announcement for Fall 2013) has announced a new round of awards. From a May 22, 2014 Grand Challenges Canada news release (can be found on EurekAlert),

Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Government of Canada, today announces investments of $12 million in projects worldwide, aimed squarely at improving the health and saving the lives of mothers, newborns and children in developing countries.

The news release goes on to describe two different grants,

Four Canadian-based projects (from Guelph, Toronto, Waterloo and Winnipeg) with proven impact and sustainability will share $2.6 million in scale-up grants and loans from Grand Challenges Canada, matched by $2.6 million from private and public partners, bringing total “transition-to-scale” investments to $5.2 million.

In addition, Grand Challenges Canada “Stars in Global Health” [awarded] seed grants of $112,000 each ($6.8 million in total) …

[emphases mine]

I checked here to find Spring 2014 ‘Transition to scale’ grants and ‘Seed’ grants for the Canada Grand Challenges (GCC) programme.

I’m highlighting two of the funded projects. First, there’s ‘Lucky Iron Fish’ which won a ‘transition-scale-grant’ for the University of Guelph, from the news release on EurekAlert,

The little “Lucky Iron Fish,” now in growing use by cooks in Cambodia, has proven effective in reducing rampant iron deficiency among women – the cause of premature labour, hemorrhaging during childbirth and poor brain development among babies. Initial local reluctance to use a loose piece of iron in cooking pots was overcome by a clever design tapping into Cambodian folklore about a fish species that brings good fortune. In partnership with small businesses across Cambodia, plans for this year and next call for production and distribution of 60,000 lucky iron fish, made from recycled material at a cost of about $5 each, which provide health benefits for roughly three years.

(Lucky Iron Fish, Guelph, a transition-to-scale investment, grant #0355, video, images. More information: http://bit.ly/1mIZeWr)

Here’s more detail about the project from the GCC’s list of May 2014 successful GCC grants,

A lucky little fish to fight iron deficiency among women in Cambodia
Lucky Iron Fish, Guelph
Project number: 0355-05-30
Total new transition to scale investment: $860,000

In Cambodia, six in 10 women are anemic due to iron deficiency in their diets, causing premature labour, hemorrhaging during childbirth and the impaired brain development of their babies.

Usually obtained through red meat or other iron-rich foods, a small chunk of iron added to water in the cooking pot can release a life-saving iron supplement.  But attempts to persuaders to do so were unsuccessful.

On a 2008 study mission in Cambodia, University of Guelph researcher Chris Charles thought of creating a piece of iron shaped like a local river fish believed to bring good luck and fortune.

His simple idea succeeded beyond all expectations.  Women happily placed the Lucky Iron Fish in their cooking pots and, in the months that followed, anemia in the village fell dramatically.

A Lucky Iron Fish is small enough to be stirred easily but large enough to provide about 75 per cent of daily iron requirements.

“The results are stunning,” says Dr. Alastair Summerlee, President of the University of Guelph and Chair of the Board of Directors of Lucky Iron Fish. “Initial results show a huge decrease in anemia and the village women say they feel good, experience no dizziness and have fewer headaches. The iron fish is incredibly powerful.”

Small businesses across Cambodia will produce and distribute the fish with quality control measures in place.  About 7.5 cm (3 inches) long, and made from recycled material at a cost of about $5 each, the iron fish provides health benefits for roughly three years.

“Our goal is to produce 10,000 Lucky Iron Fish this year and another 150,000 next year,” says Gavin Armstrong, President and CEO of Lucky Iron Fish.

Taking the project to scale offers profound potential health benefits to many women in Cambodia with potential markets throughout the world.
Grand Challenges Canada’s $500,000 loan to Lucky Iron Fish is part of a total scale-up financing package of $860,000, and augments earlier commitments of equity investors, Innovation Guelph, and the University of Guelph.

The second one is a ‘Rising Star’ project at the University of Alberta. From a May 22, 2014 University of Alberta news release (also on EurekAlert but dated May 23, 2014),

A University of Alberta researcher’s star is rising thanks to her idea to detect deadly pathogens such as E. coli using a paper device only slightly larger than a postage stamp.

Frédérique Deiss, a post-doctoral fellow in the Faculty of Science, is working on ways to help detect food- and water-borne pathogens using a paper-based diagnostic tool that could be used anywhere, including developing countries. The idea earned the electrochemist $112,000 in research funding from Grand Challenges Canada after being selected as one of their Stars in Global Health.

For the next 18 months, Deiss will be working at the U of A and with farmers near Nairobi, Kenya, in collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute, to develop and test a prototype that provides an affordable method for detecting pathogens such as salmonella or E. coli, which can be present in raw milk, on equipment, or in water or waste water.

“Some areas do not have the infrastructure to do this kind of monitoring all the time. These devices are simple and sensible enough to use that farmers could almost do the tests themselves, and test every day rather than once a week or even more sporadically,” said Deiss, who is working in the lab of Ratmir Derda.

Her idea for a diagnostic tool made of paper is just that at the moment—an idea. Funding from Grand Challenges Canada will allow her to develop an electrochemical diagnostic device made of paper and tape. Conductive ink applied to the paper would create an electrode that would allow researchers to detect the presence of targeted bacteria.

Slightly larger than a postage stamp and even cheaper to make at less than 10 cents, the device would be extremely portable, self-contained and sealed—meaning anyone performing the tests would not risk exposure to potentially harmful bacteria, Deiss said. It would also allow testing of non-purified samples—a time- and cost-saving step not possible in some parts of the world, including farms around Nairobi, she added.

Within six months, Deiss hopes to develop a working prototype capable of detecting non-pathogenic bacteria, and by one year a device able to safely detect deadly pathogens such as E. coli. She also plans to work with ILRI and farmers in Nairobi to test the device in the field, comparing results with conventional methods.

Here’s a video of Deiss describing her idea,

You can find more videos featuring researchers and their GCC projects on GCC’s YouTube channel.

I wish all the best of luck to all the researchers and I’m pretending to myself that the two projects featured here can be described as nanotechnology.

Grand Challenges Canada announces latest Canadian and international ‘stars’ in global health grants

I last mentioned the Grand Challenges Canada organization in last year’s Dec. 22, 2011 posting. It’s a non-governmental organization funded by the Canadian federal government. I did express some confusion regarding the governmental/non-governmental aspects in last year’s posting,

So if I understand this rightly, the Canadian federal government created a new fund and then created a new NGO to administer that fund. I wonder how much money is required administratively for this NGO which exists solely to distribute DIF [Development Innovation Fund]. I’m glad to see that someone is getting some money for research out of this but it does seem labyrinthine at best.

Leaving that discussion aside, let’s focus on this year’s grantees and their projects (from the Nov. 22, 2012 news release about the Canadian grantees),




From cities all across the country, 17 Canadians are selected for their bold out-of-the-box ideas to tackle debilitating disease and save lives in the Developing World

 Toronto.  Grand Challenges Canada, which is funded by the Government of Canada, announced today seed grants awarded to 17 innovators for their bold and creative ideas to tackle health conditions in poor countries. The Stars in Global Health program seeks unique, breakthrough and affordable ideas which can be transformative in addressing disease – innovations that can benefit the developed world as well. The 17 were selected from a total of 60 proposals submitted for the Canadian Stars program. A total of more than $1.7 million in funding will go to innovators from across Canada.

The bold ideas are breakthrough innovations such as mimicking rocket propelled technology, but in the body, to address maternal bleeding. A meter to detect HIV infection in fewer than 5 minutes. And a virtual reality game to assist stroke victims.

“Canada has a deep pool of talent dedicated to pursuing bold ideas that can have big impact in the developing world,” said Dr. Peter A. Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada. “Grand Challenges Canada is proud to support these extraordinary innovators from across the country because they will make a difference to so many lives.”

“Canada works with our like-minded partners throughout the world to leverage our investments in health innovation so they’re focused on getting results,” said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. “We support Grand Challenges Canada’s Stars in Global Health so these innovators can apply their talents and further efforts to make the world a healthier and safer place.”

Each of the 17 innovators will receive a grant of $100,000 to develop their bold ideas, which include:

  • Vancouver: Dr. Christian Kastrup will mimic rocket technology to propel coagulant nanoparticles into the bloodstream and stop maternal bleeding, a major cause of death in the developing world. (for video: http://bit.ly/RWdW9w)
  • Vancouver: Dr. Robin Evans is developing a Burn Survival Kit, a high-tech solution to treat burn victims. The innovation is being tested in Uganda where often burns are untreated or mistreated. This unique kit will include a low-cost silver nanotubule dressing so that the treatment is affordable. (for video: http://bit.ly/T2rPFK)
  • Edmonton: Dr. Julianne Gibbs-Davis is creating a unique approach to diagnosing TB. It involves extracting DNA from the infected persons TB bacteria and does not require the usual temperature recycling that is expensive and difficult to implement in low resource settings. (for video: http://bit.ly/SKNLSf)
  • Hamilton: Dr. Leyla Soleymani is also tackling TB diagnosis with a hand-held, solar rechargeable, inexpensive diagnostic for rapid assessment of patients at the bedside.

(for video: http://bit.ly/T02HhS)

  • Toronto: Dr. Cheng Lu has a unique idea for tackling clinic and hospital infections. A coating can be sprayed or wiped on surfaces; once applied, the long-lasting anti-bacterial components are activated by sunlight or artificial light. Easy to use and effective.           (for video: http://bit.ly/TDxU6L)
  • Kingston: Dr. Karen Yeates will employ cell phones to improve cervical cancer screening and detection. It is being tested in remote areas of Tanzania.

(for video: http://bit.ly/RSvWTK)

  • Ottawa: Dr. Marion Roche will use social marketing to rejuvenate interest in taking zinc to control childhood diarrhea. (for video: http://bit.ly/QF7S8t)
  • Montreal: Dr. Philippe Archambault will use virtual reality to assist rehabilitation of stroke victims suffering from hand or arm immobilization. (for video: http://bit.ly/T2rX7X)
  • Montreal: Dr. Hanna Kienzler’s project is called “Defeating the Giant with a Slingshot” and is a novel approach to treating trauma in the developing world. The innovation results in blocking trauma memory and will be tested with torture victims in Nepal.

(for video: http://bit.ly/QF7TJx)

  • Montreal: Dr. Alexis Vallée-Bélisle is developing a meter to detect HIV infection in fewer than 5 minutes. This diagnostic will lead to earlier treatment of the disease.

(for video: http://bit.ly/XD4oFw)

  • Halifax: Dr. Patricia Livingston’s project will improve emergency services with a specific focus on crisis management for mothers delivering babies. The project is being tested in Rwanda. (for video: http://bit.ly/TCTACv)

“It is inspiring to see the wealth of Canadian talent working to improve the health of people in developing countries,” said Joseph L. Rotman, Chair of Grand Challenges Canada. “Our Stars in Global Health program is an excellent opportunity for these dedicated Canadian innovators, with support from the Government of Canada, to bring their bold ideas forward and improve global health conditions.”

In addition to these 17 Canadian innovators, Grand Challenges Canada announced today 51 grants totalling just over $7 million for Canadians and developing world innovators. Like the Canadian Stars, these innovators’ bold ideas aim to tackle global health challenges* (http://www.grandchallenges.ca/wp-content/uploads/stars-LMIC-newsrelease-2012nov22-en.pdf)

In total, 68 Canadian and developing world innovators were selected from 310 submitted proposals.

Upon completion of this grant, if their ideas are effective and proven, the innovators will be eligible for an additional Grand Challenges Canada scale-up funding of up to $1 million.

Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the Government of Canada through the Development

Innovation Fund announced in the 2008 Federal Budget.

For information on the grants and to see each Canadian Star’s short video explaining the project, visit http://www.grandchallenges.ca/stars-r3-grantee-announcement-en/.

Please visit grandchallenges.ca and look for us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

About Grand Challenges Canada

Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting bold ideas with big impact in global health. We are funded by the Government of Canada through the Development Innovation Fund announced in the 2008 Federal Budget. We fund innovators in low and middle income countries and Canada. Grand Challenges Canada works with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and other global health foundations and organizations to find sustainable long-term solutions through integrated innovation – bold ideas which integrate science, technology, social and business innovation. Grand Challenges Canada is hosted at the Sandra Rotman Centre.



About Canada’s International Development Research Centre

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) supports research in developing countries to promote growth and development. IDRC also encourages sharing this knowledge with policymakers, other researchers and communities around the world. The result is innovative, lasting local solutions that aim to bring choice and change to those who need it most.

As the Government of Canada’s lead on the Development Innovation Fund, IDRC draws on decades of experience managing publicly funded research projects to administer the Development Innovation Fund. IDRC also ensures that developing country researchers and concerns are front and centre in this exciting new initiative.


There’s also a Nov. 22, 2012 news release about the newly funded projects which are being led internationally. Here’s a few I find particularly interestin,

A new trading system in Kenya: seeds and fertilizers for proof of child vaccinations

(for video: http://bit.ly/UFlMmN)

To eliminate persistent pocket areas of Kenya where children are not vaccinated or undervaccinated, researchers will create a barcoded vaccination card redeemable for farm seeds and fertilizer.

Updated each time a child gets a vaccine, the card is taken to one of about 20,000 local agro-vet outlets, where the barcode is scanned using an app on a camera-equipped smartphone. The farmer would then redeem an “agri-credit” for essential farm inputs.

Lead researcher Benson Wamalwa of the University of Nairobi says the program “would powerfully incentivize parents to seek and adhere to their children’s immunization schedule even when hard pressed financially to reach a distant vaccination centre.

The idea is a practical solution that would significantly boost small farm productivity and incomes for poor household while safeguarding the general health of children in farming villages through up-to-date immunizations.”

Creating wealth from human waste in cholera-troubled Haiti

(for video: http://bit.ly/RBbN38)

The recent cholera outbreak in Haiti heightened both awareness of the problem’s cause and demand for better sanitation services — a tough challenge in environments without reliable running water. Meanwhile, national demand for farm and forest compost is high.

Hoping to capitalize on those twin realities, a Haitian group will build in urban slums the first new $200, waterless “EcoSan” toilets that produce revenue-generating compost, with hopes of inspiring entrepreneurs to replicate the project throughout Haiti and around the world, where 2.5 billion people lack sanitation access.

The project will document the number of toilets built and people receiving sanitation services, quantity of compost produced, sales and the outcomes of tests for pathogens and nutrients.

A $100 kitchen reno to reduce indoor pollution and problem pregnancies in Bangladesh

(for video: http://bit.ly/THAPNQ)

The International Energy Agency estimates that biomass fuels such as wood and dung will continue providing 30% of global energy in resource-poor settings though 2050.

Exposure to smoke from biomass cooking fuels, however, is known to cause placental dysfunction and is highly associated with low birth-weight babies in developing countries. Part of the solution could be a locally-made, simple prefabricated “$100 kitchen” featuring a clean-combustion stove.

Researchers in Bangladesh will conduct a randomized controlled trial with 430 willing mothers, 2 to 3 months pregnant, half of whom will use the innovative, well-ventilated $100 kitchen with reinforced cement infrastructure, a waste disposal system, and a stove that combusts biofuels with minimal smoke.

Mobile app to reduce obesity in northern Nigeria

(for video: http://bit.ly/THB7nV)

WHO projects that globally by 2015 about 2.3 billion adults will be overweight; more than 700 million will be obese — an epidemic growing fastest in developing countries and leading to diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke.

In rural northern Nigeria, where mobile phone use is now common (use in Nigeria rose almost 1,300% in 2010-11), health researchers led by Sally Akarolo-Anthony will work with a high-tech firm to create a smartphone app to provide a virtual mentor and online buddy system.

The app will compute a user’s metabolic rate and caloric requirement, prompt daily exercise, collect data on activity and eating, offer healthy diet tips (e.g. white vs. brown rice), estimate the daily calorie intake required to meet a weight-loss goal, and monitor change over time.

I wish all of the researchers success with their projects, which would mean success for Grand Challenges Canada and this particular model for funding.