Lab Canada

$2M in grants helps tackle pressing global health challenges

Toronto, ONGrand Challenges Canada has announced 19 grants to Canadian innovators in the first phase of its Canadian Rising Stars in Global Health initiative.

“When I ran the in the Olympic Torch Relay with my wife Sandra, we felt a sense of pride in Canada as we had never felt before,” says Joseph L Rotman, chair of Grand Challenges Canada. “I feel the same sense of pride about these outstanding Canadian Rising Stars in Global Health who demonstrate the leadership Canadians can and do contribute to the international community.”

“We are enabling Canadians to make their contribution to global health challenges, in collaboration with colleagues in low- and middle-income countries. Grand Challenges Canada is just beginning to tap that potential,” says Dr. Singer.

In a first for a Canadian grant application process, these innovators each produced a short video to explain their ideas to Canadians. These videos are as creative as the ideas proposed, showing our innovators in a new engaging light. To watch the videos visit

Through a rigorous peer review process, 19 proposals were selected from across Canada each receiving a grant of $100,000. Their ideas are innovative, plan to address barriers to implementation such as community values and ethics, the health systems required to deliver the discoveries, and cost-effective commercialization of their solutions Challenges Canada calls this Integrated Innovation, an approach which improves the success rate of discoveries. If their ideas are robust, effective, and proven, the innovators will be eligible for an additional scale-up grant of up to $1 million for each proposal.

There will be three rounds of Canadian Rising Stars for a total of $20 million. Of this amount, approximately $14 million will be available for scale-up grants.

Grand Challenges Canada is a new global health organization funded by Canada’s foreign aid budget. Its purpose is to fund research to address some of the most difficult global health issues through Integrated Innovation and save lives. Canada is the first country in the world to adopt a grand challenges approach to foreign aid.

Grand Challenges Canada participates in a consortium with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Grand Challenges Canada is also announcing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Round 2 of Canadian Rising Stars in Global Health. In this round, proposal submissions will require developing world innovators to collaborate with Canadians on their ideas.


Round 1 grantees and projects are as follows:


Anne Andermann (McGill University). A primary care toolkit to tackle child labour and promote health equity. This project aims to break the intergenerational cycle of health inequities in low- and middle-income countries by developing an affordable toolkit to tackle child labour and promote health equity (technological/business innovation) implemented through training primary care outreach workers in low-resource settings (social innovation).


Diego Bassani (Hospital for Sick Children). The Fetal Heart Monitor project – Human Energy to save lives. Fetal heart rate is the most important signal of distress and millions of births in Africa happen with no monitoring. Fetal monitors must be rugged, reliable and not dependent on electricity. Canadian and African researchers are partnering to test a low-cost heart monitor powered by human energy.


Astrid Christoffersen-Deb (University of Toronto). mHealth for Maternal and Newborn Health: Clinical decision support for community health workers in Western Kenya. Community Health Workers (CHWs) are vital to the health of their communities. This project aims to strengthen the ability of CHWs to make health decisions, and link women and infants to care through the use of clinical decision-support on mobile phones. By extending their electronic medical record system to CHWs, they aim to improve quality of care.


Ratmir Derda (University of Alberta). Paper as Enabling Platform for Cell-Based Assays for Basic Research and Medical Diagnostics in Resource-Limited Environments. Novel paper based diagnostics device which does not require power. It can serve as a platform for cell culture in environments with limited resources because cells grow in paper just as they do in a culture dish. Paper-based tests that use bacteriophage instead of antibody can be produced on-site to diagnose diseases like malaria, HIV or TB.


Jean-Simon Diallo (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute & University of Ottawa).Egg-Free Production of Influenza Vaccines Using Viral Sensitizer Technology: A Reliable and Affordable Solution for Developing Countries. Reliable and affordable source of vaccines for developing countries are critical. This technology can substantially improve vaccine yields obtained from cell cultures and propose to apply it to make influenza vaccines with the help of strategic partners in Canada and in developing countries.


Anny Fortin (McGill University). The use of a permanent make-up (or tattoo) device to target drug delivery against cutaneous leishmaniasis. The proposed idea is to use a permanent make-up (or tattoo) device, a proven technology of the cosmetic sector, to a) target intra-dermal administration of an anti-cutaneous leishmaniasis therapy, and b) deliver and concentrate the drug in professional phagocytes, the exclusive replicative niche of the Leishmania parasites.


Santiago Ramon-Garcia (University of British Columbia). New therapeutic drug combinations for tuberculosis treatment. This project addresses the problem of hundreds of antibiotics being available on the market but only a few are effective to treat tuberculosis. Developing new drugs is a long (10-15 years) and expensive (~$800 millions) process. Identification of synergistic combinations using drugs approved for other therapeutic applications can allow the introduction of new tuberculosis therapies in shorter time.


Carmen Logie (Women’s College Research Institute). Development and evaluation of a tablet-based, community health worker delivered HIV/STI prevention intervention for women living in internally displaced persons camps in Leogane, Haiti. This project will develop, deliver and evaluate a solar powered tablet-based motivational interviewing HIV/Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) intervention at internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Leogane, Haiti. Women from IDP camps will be trained as community health workers to deliver the HIV/STI intervention to women in IDP camps working in collaboration with NEGES, a women’s peanut butter cooperative.


LaRon Nelson (University of Toronto).Kumasi & Accra Project to Prevent AIDS (KAPPA): A Social Network-Based Intervention to Prevent HIV among Men who have Sex with Men. KAPPA is a theory-driven model to reduce HIV transmission by combining biomedical and behavioural interventions and diffusing them via social/sexual networks of men who have sex with men (MSM). This study will explore the uptake potential of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as a prevention strategy among MSM and a medical practice among physicians.


Madhukar Pai (The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre). A low-cost, multiplexed, point-of-care test for extra-pulmonary tuberculosis. There is a lack of an accurate, rapid, low-cost test for Tuberculosis which is difficult to diagnose. Partnering with industry, they are aiming to develop a simple strip test for extra-pulmonary TB in India, validate and commercialize it, and make it affordable for under $2/test, by combining technological and business-model innovation.


Nitika Pant Pai (The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre). To develop a synergistic, innovative, implementation strategy for self testing for HIV in South Africa. An integrated technological and self-testing strategy which offers confidentiality and reduces stigma. This project will develop a self-testing strategy for HIV that is in tune with people’s needs and optimized within the public health system for South Africa.


Daniel Roth (Hospital for Sick Children). Integration of pulse oximetry into the routine assessment of sick young infants at first-level clinics in Karachi, Pakistan. Millions of young infants die each year in regions of South Asia and Africa that lack advanced health technologies familiar to Canadians. Pulse oximetry is a simple, portable technology that can enable health workers to rapidly identify young infants who lack adequate blood oxygen, a critical sign that indicates the need for immediate treatment.


Lena Serghides (University Health Network). PPAR-gamma agonists for the treatment of cerebral malaria – tweaking the host response to save brains. This project aims to rescue a child with cerebral malaria from death or long-term cognitive impairment, by protecting their brain. The idea is to use PPARg agonists, a type of anti-diabetic drug, to treat cerebral malaria. PPARg agonists have neuro-protective and neuro-regenerative properties, that may help to reduce and repair malaria-caused brain injury.


David Sinton (University of Toronto). Water and Power: Energy-efficient water purification developed for point-of-care and scaled for public health. Access to pure water is a key determinant of public health and current purification methods are energy intensive and thus impractical for low income regions. This project will develop a scalable energy-efficient water purification method based on ion concentration polarization at the interface between micro scale channels and planar nanoporous membranes.


Kate Tairyan (Simon Fraser University). The world’s first free university. This project aims to create the world’s first free, globally-available, high-quality health sciences university ( The project will use under-utilized resources and technologies to revamp and improve health sciences education. This project addressed the World Health Organization’s expressed need to use computer-based technologies to create four million more health providers and tackle the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


Gail Webber (University of Ottawa). Saving Mothers: Preventing Maternal Mortality in Rural Africa. With bleeding and infection being the two largest causes of maternal mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa in childbirth, this project aims to distribute low-cost medication for women in rural Africa to take after delivery in the home setting, in hopes of saving many lives.


Ri-hua Xie (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute & University of Ottawa). Using mobile phone text messaging to reduce maternal and infant deaths in remote areas in China. The purpose of this project is to integrate the WHO education material using mobile phone text messaging, and target pregnant women in remote rural areas in China. The aim is to reduce 4,700 maternal deaths and 63,000 infant deaths in China if the program, which is designed to be accessible and affordable, is successfully implemented.


Stephanie Yanow (University of Alberta). Revamping an old tool: point-of-care molecular diagnostics in blood capillary tubes. Transforming the classic blood capillary tube into a diagnostic device that integrates whole blood collection with molecular testing. Capillaries are fabricated with ‘hydrogel’, an acrylamide gel that includes reagents for detection of malaria and other infections. The device will provide novel diagnostics at point-of-care.


Jin Zhang (University of Western Ontario). Development of Non-invasive Diagnostic Device for Diabetes. Over 70% of global deaths due to diabetes come from developing countries with majority of them from Africa. In Kenya, diabetes is diagnosed by the random blood testing, and patients lack a proper management. It is also noted some cases of blood-borne infection in the blood test. This project proposes to develop a non-invasive diagnostic tool for diabetes.