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) …
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.
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.
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.