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

TORONTO, Nov. 21, 2013 /CNW/ - 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:


  • Diagnostic diapers, to detect and signal often deadly rotavirus (Project implementation: India).  Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea that annually kills 500,000 children under age five and hospitalizes millions more. India's Achira Labs is creating a fabric-based chip that, when integrated into disposable diapers, will help detect and signal the infectious virus quickly and safely. 
    Grant # 0404-01 - Project DetailsVideoPhotoContact Details

  • 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. 
    Grant # 0389-01 - Project DetailsVideo │Photo│Contact Details

  • 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. 
    Grant # 0374-01 - Project DetailsVideoPhotoContact Details

  • A cell phone app to detect breast cancer (Canada, China, Ireland, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa).  Millions of women in rural areas and low-income countries do not have access to diagnostic imaging or breast screening programs. Using quantum physics, solid-state microwave detectors and cell phone technology, this project, led by the University of Manitoba, aims to create a portable, effective system to move breast cancer detection from clinic to home. 
    Grant # 0385-01 - Project DetailsVideo│Photo│Contact Details

  • Using light to detect urinary tract / bladder problems (Canada, Uganda, Ethiopia).  An estimated 2% of deaths in Uganda and widespread chronic illnesses are attributed to urinary tract / bladder problems. Early diagnosis will save resources now devoted to investigate, treat to save organ function, and reduce hypertension.  A prototype device at the University British Columbia uses light to measure hemoglobin and oxygen levels through the skin as the bladder empties, revealing significant problems in real time.
    Grant # 0382-01 - Project DetailsVideo │Photo│Contact Details

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.
    Grant # 0397-01 - Project DetailsVideo │Photo│Contact Details

  • Cost-effective cloth menstrual sanitary pads in Africa (Uganda).  Every year since 2010, Uganda's AFRIpads company has doubled production of low-cost, washable cloth menstrual kits designed for up to one year's use, increasing rural access to affordable feminine hygiene (15% of the cost of disposable pads), eliminating reliance on makeshift materials, thereby improving women's health and chances for education and work.  Some 120,000+ kits have been distributed so far, mostly by NGOs.  The project will improve supply chains, distribution and awareness-raising. 
    Grant # 0447-01 - Project DetailsVideoPhotoContact Details

  • Addressing arsenic-laced groundwaterIn 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.  (See also projects 0377-01 and 0433-01)
    Grant # 0375-01 - Project DetailsVideo │Photo│Contact Details
    Grant # 0387-01 - Project DetailsVideo │Photo│Contact Details

  • "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. 
    Grant # 0410-01 - Project DetailsVideoPhotoContact Details


  • 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. 
    Grant # 0381-01 - Project DetailsVideo │Photo│Contact Details

  • 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.
    Grant # 0438-01 - Project DetailsVideoPhotoContact Details
    Grant # 0442-01 - Project DetailsVideo │Photo│Contact Details
    Grant # 0448-01 - Project DetailsVideo │Photo│Contact Details

Maternal and child health

  • Medical appointment reminders and health tips delivered via voice message to new and expectant mothers who speak Quechua -- a South American language with no written component (Peru).  Project leaders at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia say the 29 million mobile phones in Peru roughly matches the population yet the use of information and communication technologies in health work with rural women who speak Quechua is unprecedented.  An estimated 22% of Peruvians speak Quechua. 
    Grant # 0434-01 - Project DetailsVideoPhotoContact Details

  • 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. 
    Grant # 0451-01 - Project DetailsVideo │Photo│Contact Details

  • A novel, integrated resuscitation solution (India, Africa).  A 2012 UN study showed 25% of birth facilities had access to infant resuscitation equipment; 11% had attendants capable of using it.  India's Windmill Health Technologies has created a novel integrated resuscitation solution, reduces air leakage, creates more consistent air pressure and volume, lessening injuries and improving survival. 
    Grant # 0411-01 - Project DetailsVideoPhotoContact Details

Mobile technology

  • 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. 
    Grant # 0384-01 - Project DetailsVideoPhotoContact Details

Health care

  • 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. 
    Grant # 0393-01 - Project DetailsVideoPhotoContact Details

  • "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. 
    Grant # 0373-01 - Project DetailsVideoPhotoContact Details

And many more.

All the projects and a complete set of short project descriptions, with links to additional details, available photos / video, and local contact information can be found in the full press release:

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, GhanaMalawi, 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.

Please visit 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 that 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.

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.

SOURCE: Grand Challenges Canada

For further information:

Contacts: Terry Collins, +1-416-538-8712, +1-416-878-8712;
Lode Roels, +1-416-673-6570; +1-647-328-2021; 
Local project contact information spreadsheet: 

Organization Profile

Grand Challenges Canada

More on this organization

Custom Packages

Browse our custom packages or build your own to meet your unique communications needs.

Start today.

CNW Membership

Fill out a CNW membership form or contact us at 1 (877) 269-7890

Learn about CNW services

Request more information about CNW products and services or call us at 1 (877) 269-7890