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$1M grant to address parasitic diseases in the developing world


Montreal, QC – McGill University and McGill University scientist Dr Timothy Geary has been awarded a $1-million grant for research into addressing parasitic diseases through medicines derived from African biodiversity.

The $1-million award is collaboration among three funders: $500,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; $250,000 from Grand Challenges Canada through the Canadian government’s Capital Development Innovation Fund; and $250,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

More than a billion people in the developing world suffer from Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which cause disfigurement, disability and even death. Dr Geary’s research focuses on parasitic worms, or helminths, which live inside the body. Diseases such as hookworm, river blindness and elephantiasis cause stunted growth and cognitive impairment in children, horrific debilitating and disfiguring symptoms in adults.

“While there have been advances in the past few years in providing drugs to control the disease, there is so much more that can be done to eliminate NTDs and bring hope to many for a better future,” said Dr Geary, Director of the Institute of Parasitology at McGill. “The drugs we plan to develop through this research will combat growing resistance to existing therapies, an important next step in the treatment and control of parasitic disease.”

Dr Geary’s research, conducted in partnership with Dr Eliane Ubalijoro of the Institute for the Study of International Development at McGill, focuses on identifying compounds from African botanical and microbial sources that can lead to new drugs to eliminate parasitic worms from the body. In this approach, he works in partnership with African scientists, particularly Dr Kelly Chibale of the University of Cape Town, and Drs Berhanu Abegaz and Kerstin Marobela of the University of Botswana, believing that partners from disease-endemic countries are critically important for finding new solutions to these infections. This team will conduct research both at McGill and in Africa.

“This is about Canadians helping Africans help themselves; an effective and long-term approach to the challenges developing countries face,” said Dr Peter A Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada. “This is a milestone celebration for Grand Challenges Canada. We are less than a year old and I am proud to say this is our first grant announcement. For us, this is like fireworks lighting up the sky on Canada Day.”