For the third year in a row (as per my Dec. 22, 2011 posting and my Nov. 22, 2012 posting), I’m featuring Grand Challenges Canada funding for its ‘Stars in Global Health’ programme . From the Grand Challenges Canada (GCC) Nov. 21, 2013 news release,
Imaginative: 83 Bold Innovations to Improve Global Health Receive Grand Challenges Canada Funding
Among novel ideas to reduce disease, save lives in developing world:
Diagnostic diapers to detect deadly rotavirus; Rolling water barrel;
Special yogurt offsets pesticides, heavy metals, toxins in food;
Inventive shoe, boot material releases bug repellent when walking
50 innovators from low- and middle-income countries,
plus 33 from Canada, share $9.3 million in seed grants
Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Government of Canada, today extends seed grants of $100,000 each to 83 inventive new ideas for addressing health problems in resource-poor countries.
The Grand Challenges Canada “Stars in Global Health” program seeks breakthrough and affordable innovations that could transform the way disease is treated in the developing world — innovations that may benefit the health of developed world citizens as well.
Of the 83 grants announced today, 50 are given to innovators in 15 low- and middle-income nations worldwide and 33 to Canadian-originated projects, to be implemented in a total of 30 countries throughout the developing world.
“Innovation powers development leading to better health and more jobs. I feel proud that Canada, through Grand Challenges Canada, has supported almost 300 bold ideas to date in our Stars in Global Health program,” says Dr. Peter A. Singer, Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada. “This is one of the largest pipelines of innovations in global health in the world today.”
Says the Honourable Christian Paradis, Canadian Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie: “Grand Challenges Canada’s portfolio of projects shows how innovators with bold ideas have the potential to make a big impact on global health. By connecting game-changing ideas with some of the most pressing global health challenges, these projects will lead to sustainable and affordable health solutions in low- and middle-income countries.”
The portfolio of 83 creative, out-of-the-box ideas, selected through independent peer review from 451 applications, includes projects submitted by social entrepreneurs, private sector companies and non-government organizations as well as university researchers. Among them:
- A simple, portable, dry, yeast-based blood screening test (Belize, Jamaica). WHO estimates almost half of 46 million blood donations in low-income countries are inadequately tested; in Africa up to 10% of new HIV infections are caused by transfusions. A University of Toronto-developed yeast-based blood screening tool will detect combinations of diseases. Like baking yeast, it can be stored dry, and can be grown locally with minimal equipment and training, improving accessibility in rural areas.
- A bedside, Litmus paper-like test to detect bronchitis (Brazil, India). Being pioneered at McMaster University with international collaborators, a simple sputum test will detect infectious and allergic bronchitis in adults and children, reducing mis-diagnosis in developing countries and saving resources: time, steroids, antibiotics.
Water, sanitation, hygiene and general health
- Special yogurts formulated to offset the harm to health caused by heavy metals, pesticides and other toxics in food (Africa). Between 2006-2009 in Nairobi, only 17% of the total maize sampled and 5% of feed was fit for human and animal consumption respectively. University of Western Ontario researchers have developed novel yogurts containing a bacteria that, in the stomach, sequesters certain toxins and heavy metals and degrades some pesticides.
- Addressing arsenic-laced groundwater. In Bangladesh, 1 in 5 deaths (600,000 per year) occur due to groundwater arsenic, dubbed by WHO as the largest mass poisoning in history, with some 77 million people at risk. Project 1) Toronto-based PurifAid will deploy new filtration units via franchised villagers who will filter and deliver purified water, perform maintenance, acquire new filters and dispose of old ones, which can be used to produce biofuels. Project 2) A project based at the University of Calgary, meanwhile, will work to increase the use of Western Canadian lentils in Bangladeshi diets. The crop is rich in selenium, which can decrease arsenic levels and improve health.
- “WaterWheel” (India, Kenya, Mongolia). This simple, innovative device from India is a wheeled water container that enables the collection and transport of 3 to 5 times as much water as usual per trip, as well as hygienic storage, saving valuable time for productive activities and improving health.
- A vaccine based on a newly-discovered antibody in men that prevents malaria infection in the placenta (Benin, Colombia). Colombian men exposed to malaria are found to have antibodies that can prevent infection in the placenta of a pregnant woman. This University of Alberta finding forms the basis for developing a novel vaccine against several forms of malaria, which cause 10,000 maternal deaths and 200,000 stillbirths annually.
- Insect-repellent clothing, footwear and wall plaster (East Africa). 1) In Tanzania, the Africa Technical Research Institute will lead the design and manufacture of attractive, affordable insecticide-treated clothing while 2) the Ifakara Health Institute will develop anti-mosquito footwear material that slowly releases repellents from the friction of walking. A key advantage: no compliance or change in habits required. 3) Uganda’s Med Biotech Laboratories, meanwhile, will produce a colorful, insecticide-infused ‘plaster’ for the outside walls of African village homes.
Maternal and child health
- Mothers Telling Mothers: improving maternal health through storytelling (Uganda). Work by Twezimbe Development Association has found that stories told by mothers in their own words and reflecting shared realities are most likely to increase the number of moms seeking skilled health care, and convince policymakers to improve healthcare access. This project will capture 3 to 5 minutes stories to be shared through digital media platforms and health clinics.
- Digital African Health Library (Sub-Saharan Africa). The University of Calgary-led project is creating an app to support bedside care by medical doctors in Africa: a smartphone-accessible resource providing evidence-based, locally-relevant decision support and health information. A pilot involving 65 doctors in Rwanda showed point of care answers to patient questions more than tripled to 43%, with self-reported improvement in patient outcomes.
- Simple sticker helps track clean surfaces in healthcare facilities (Philippines). WHO estimates that 10% to 30% of all patients in developing country health care facilities acquire an infection. An innovative sticker for hospital surfaces developed by Lunanos Inc. changes colour when a cleaner is applied and fades color after a predetermined period of time, helping staff track and ensure cleanliness of equipment and other frequently touched surfaces.
- “Mystery clients” to assess and improve quality of TB care (India). India accounts for 25% of global tuberculosis (TB) incidence. To evaluate variations in practice quality, and identify ways to improve TB management in India, this project, led by Canada’s McGill University, will send researchers into clinics posing as a patient with standard TB symptoms. The project builds on earlier work related to angina, asthma and dysentery, which revealed incorrect diagnoses and treatment.
And many more.
A complete set of 83 short project descriptions, with links to additional project details, available photos / video, and local contact information, is available in the full news release online here: http://bit.ly/HOLt5b
Here’s a video for the one of the projects (filtering arsenic out of Bangladesh’s water),
I chose this project somewhat haphazardly. It caught my attention as I have written more than once about purification efforts and as it turns out, this is a Canada-based project (with a Bangladeshi partner, BRAC) from the University of Toronto.
You may have heard the video’s narrator mention scotch whiskey, here’s why (from the YouTube page hosting the project video,page),
We plan to roll out a new generation of filtration units which run on an organic by-product of the beverage industry. The units address many of the failings of existing devices (they require no power or chemicals and are very low maintenance).
This project gets still more interesting (from the full project description page),
Device for the Remediation and Attenuation of Multiple Pollutants (DRAM) removes 95% of arsenic from contaminated water within 5 minutes of exposure. With an estimated 600,000 deaths directly attributable to arsenic poisoning every year, these units hold the potential to save millions of lives. Existing solutions are too complicated and suffer from significant usability issues (2012 UNICEF study).
We will deploy our units through a franchise business model. [emphasis mine] Local villagers will filter and deliver purified water, perform maintenance, acquire new media, and dispose spent media. The current market leader, the Sono Filter, has less than 20% uptake (according to UNICEF). DRAM costs only 25% of this solution, has lower maintenance requirements (4-6 month media cycle vs. 2 week media cycle), higher durability, and can be retrofitted onto existing tube wells villagers use thereby requiring no behavior change. The spent media (which must be replaced every 4-6 months) can be used to produce biofuels, giving PurifAid a decisive capability over competitors.
With the assistance of our local partner BRAC (ranked #1 on Global Journal’s list of top NGOs in 2012) we will retrofit our units onto existing tubewells. Contaminated water is pumped from the tubewell into the unit where it passes into the bottom of the unit, rising up through a bed of the organic filter media, binding the arsenic. Clean water is displaced and forced out of the top of the unit and out through the built-in tap. Our community based solution will begin with a proof-of-concept installation in the Mujibnagar District (pop. 1.3 million). BRAC will assist in testing our filter water quality on the ground and these results will be used to obtain regulatory approval for our technology. We will then operationalize our community-run DRAM systems. A council of local stakeholders will nominate prospective franchisees amongst villagers. These villagers will replace filter media in 4 month intervals and order annual delivery of new media. We are securing partnerships with nearby distilleries to locally source the filter media. [emphasis mine] Disposal will be handled by a local caretaker who will store spent media in bulk before transferring it for use as biofuel. Caretaker salary, media sourcing, and delivery costs will be paid by charging a levy on customer households. PurifAid will monitor behavioural and health indicators to ascertain DRAM’s immediate and long-term impact. To this end PurifAid has partnered with Ashalytics, a start-up global health analytics company, to report operational issues, measure impact, and communicate important metrics to key staff and stakeholders via mobile phones. This results in an environmentally-friendly value chain that uses beverage industry waste, maximizing positive impact. If the Bangladesh installations are a success then this system can be introduced across the Indian subcontinent and in west Africa, where arsenic in groundwater poses a serious health problem. DRAM has the potential to improve the lives of millions globally.
After 18 months we envisage having installed 15 DRAM systems supplying 45 liters of purified water per day to 2,700 households. In order to ensure maintenance, 15 paid caretakers will operate the pumps and a driver will supply the caretakers with fresh media every 4-6 months. Biannually, new bulk media will be provided to storage unit in the village, spent media will in turn be taken to a plant and converted to biofuel. Villagers will invest collectively to purchase, install and operate DRAM on pre-existing tube wells – thus no behavioral changes needed.
Our filters employ a new water filtration technology. Our franchise model involves social and business innovation, empowering communities to manage their own water treatment under the stewardship of a local partner that manages 17 social businesses with combined annual revenues of $93m in 2011.
(Aside: Don’t they ask for a ‘dram’ of whiskey in the movies?) This project is intended to do more than purify water; it’s designed to create jobs. Bravo!
Now back to the news release for details about the countries and agencies involved,
The global portfolio of grants, broken down by region and country:
30 projects based in 6 African countries (16 in Kenya, 5 in Tanzania, 5 in Uganda, 2 in Nigeria and 1 each in Senegal and Ghana)
17 projects based in 7 countries in Asia (7 in India, 2 in Pakistan 4 in Thailand and 1 each in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mongolia and the Philippines)
Two projects based in South America (Peru) and one in Europe (Armenia)
33 projects based in 11 Canadian cities (14 in Toronto, 3 each in Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver, 2 each in Winnipeg, Edmonton and London, and 1 each in Halifax, Hamilton, Ottawa and Saskatoon)
The Canadian-based projects will be implemented worldwide (a majority of them implemented simultaneously in more than one country):
15 countries in Africa (5 in Kenya, 4 in Tanzania, 3 each in Uganda and Ethiopia, 2 each in Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, and Zambia, and 1 each in Benin, Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, and DR Congo)
8 countries in Asia (8 in India, 6 in Bangladesh, 1 each in Bhutan, China, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand)
5 countries in South and Latin America (Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Peru.) and
1 in the Middle East (Egypt)
Including today’s grants, total investments to date under the Grand Challenges Canada “Stars in Global Health” program is $32 million in 295 projects.
For full details: http://bit.ly/HOLt5b
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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 that integrate science, technology, social and business innovation. Grand Challenges Canada is hosted at the Sandra Rotman Centre.
Please visit grandchallenges.ca and look for us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.
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.
About Canadian Institutes of Health Research
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada’s health research investment agency. CIHR’s mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 14,100 health researchers and trainees across Canada. CIHR will be responsible for the administration of international peer review, according to international standards of excellence. The results of CIHR-led peer reviews will guide the awarding of grants by Grand Challenges Canada from the Development Innovation Fund.
About the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
The mandate of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada is to manage Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations, to encourage the country’s international trade, and to lead Canada’s international development and humanitarian assistance.
About Sandra Rotman Centre
The Sandra Rotman Centre is based at University Health Network and the University of Toronto. We develop innovative global health solutions and help bring them to scale where they are most urgently needed. The Sandra Rotman Centre hosts Grand Challenges Canada.
I have found it confusing that there’s a Grand Challenges Canada and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a Grand Challenges programme, both of which making funding announcements at this time of year. I did make some further investigations which I noted in my Dec. 22, 2011 posting,
Last week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $21.1 M grant over three years for research into point-of-care diagnostic tools for developing nations. A Canadian nongovermental organization (NGO) will be supplementing this amount with $10.8 M for a total of $31.9 M. (source: Dec. 16, 2011 AFP news item [Agence France-Presse] on MedicalXpress.com)
At this point, things get a little confusing. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a specific program called Grand Challenges in Global Health and this grant is part of that program. Plus, the Canadian NGO is called Grand Challenges Canada (couldn’t they have found a more distinctive name?), which is funded by a federal Canadian government initiative known as the Development Innovation Fund (DIF). …
Weirdly, no one consulted with me when they named the Bil & Melinda Gates Foundation programme or the Canadian NGO.