Grand Challenges ‘scales up’ six innovators
August 3, 2016
TORONTO – Six Canadian innovations showing evidence of early promise for improving global health will “transition-to-scale” thanks to new support from Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Government of Canada.
Based on promising outcomes, the innovators will now receive “transition-to-scale” investments. The new funding, totalling CDN $5 million, will be doubled by partners in the six projects, creating a total investment of $10 million.
Since launching in 2010, Grand Challenges Canada has supported a pipeline of over 700 innovations in more than 80 countries, including 70 “transition-to-scale” investments.
“These Bold Ideas with Big Impact show how innovation can accelerate international development to save and improve the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” said Dr. Peter A. Singer (pictured), CEO of Grand Challenges Canada. “Canadians are an innovative people – as these Canadian innovators demonstrate.”
The new investments, matched by a wide range of partners, will enable the innovators to advance the development of their technologies and deploy them further throughout the developing world.
The investments build on significant results from seed projects also funded by Grand Challenges Canada:
- Arbutus Medical (Vancouver, BC): In clinical trials in East Africa, surgeons operated on bone injury patients using a low-cost hardware store drill enveloped in a safe, affordable Drill Cover system to reduce tool cost and improve infection control practices. Researchers recorded reduced surgical time using the covered power drill vs. hand drills, and performance was comparable to surgical drills valued at up to $30,000. Next steps: product launches in East Africa and India, and development of new products such as a surgical saw system that will help make safe surgical equipment more accessible worldwide.
Scaling partners: Crown Healthcare Africa, priMED Medical Products, Intellecap
- KA Imaging (Waterloo, ON): A novel, high-resolution X-ray imager was shown to achieve the same levels of accuracy as conventional chest X-rays, at a significantly lower X-ray dose and cost. New support from Grand Challenges Canada and partners will enable the innovators to continue building and testing their highly promising prototype in Zambia.
Scaling partners: Christie Medical Holdings, Delft Imaging Systems, Ontario Centres of Excellence
- McMaster University (Hamilton, ON): Studies in Botswana showed that over one-third of 671 babies hospitalized with severe diarrhea — including 17 of 26 who ultimately died – were infected with a treatable pathogen but had not been treated due to conventional clinical practice. Canadian researchers will develop a new approach that could fundamentally change the management of acute childhood diarrheal disease in low-resource settings, integrating a new rapid diagnostic tool, targeted antimicrobial treatment, and probiotic therapy.
Scaling partners: Botswana Ministry of Health, the Botswana-UPenn Partnership, bioMerieux, BioGaia, Copan Italia
- Clearwater Clinical (Ottawa, ON): In Uganda, the first iPad audiometer (ShoeBOX) was clinically validated, screening 868 children for hearing loss, 139 of whom were diagnosed with hearing loss. The low-cost, portable technology will now be used to screen hundreds of thousands of people for hearing loss across South America.
Scaling partners: Angel investors, Business Development Bank of Canada
- Wema Inc. and Queen’s University (Kingston, ON): In a pilot study in Tanzania, health workers shared smartphone images and consulted distant experts on possible cervical cancer cases. The project found experts fully agreed on 94.6% of diagnoses done by health providers within just one month of training. A second study in Bangladesh found that community health workers using the guidance and support of the smartphone applications interviewed more women, had superior data completeness, and identified more women with possible breast abnormalities. Now, the projects will be merged to develop mobile phone-based innovations for low resource settings to help local health workers screen for cervical cancer, and promote community awareness and early breast cancer detection.
Scaling partners: Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Tanzania, Marie Stopes International, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (Tanzania) and multiple local partner organizations working in women’s health.
- Sympact-X and the Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre (Montreal, QC): A smartphone-based HIV self-test application (HIVSmart!) helped identify undiagnosed HIV cases and people at risk of infection. In a trial of 251 healthcare workers, all those who self-tested positive for HIV sought counselling and care. A majority (91%) of participants rated the tool easy-to-use, non-invasive, private and painless. With new support from Grand Challenges Canada and partners, HIVSmart! will be implemented and tested across South Africa.
Scaling partners: Grand Challenges South Africa, South Africa Medical Research Council’s Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships program, South Africa’s Department of Science & Technology, Orasure Technologies, the Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre and the University of Cape Town.
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