Playing VC: Vote for the next Canadian innovator tackling global health

Playing VC: Vote for the next Canadian innovator tackling global health
How you can help solve African health problems on Canadian soil
How you can help solve African health problems on Canadian soil

Looking to fellow Canadians for inspiration? Look no further. Grand Challenges Canada, an initiative helmed at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health (a MaRS Centre tenant!), aims to tackles major challenges in the developing world by accelerating the growth of promising ideas for improving global health.

Let me throw some troubling stats at you:

  • In the developing world, over 8 million children die before their fifth birthday
  • Life expectancy is less than 40 years old in parts of the developing world (contrast that with Canada, where it’s over 80 years and still getting higher!)

From an entrepreneurial perspective, that represents a huge opportunity for innovation. But moreover, it represents a huge opportunity for innovations that will save a lot of lives.
The Grand Challenges Canada mission is to fund a global community of researchers and institutions, competitively generate innovations and support the implementation and commercialization of the emergent solutions. In 2008, the Government of Canada committed over $225 million in funding towards addressing global health challenges; Grand Challenges Canada is administering this funding pool, and is already in the process of selecting ideas with great potential. In their current “Rising Stars” competition, innovators will get $100,000 for a promising idea, and a highly motivating $1 million if the idea takes off.


Applicants for the Rising Stars competition have already been amassed within a number of different sectors. Check out their videos here, and vote on your favourites!

Voter input combined with a peer-review process will lead to the selection of winners. Look for “Integrated Innovation” – the integration of scientific, social and business solutions that will likely have a significant global health impact.

Global health at MaRS

Many of MaRS’ life sciences and health care clients have similar global health-focused goals.

Anar Biotech, for example, is commercializing a portable, field-friendly device that can extract and analyze DNA in minutes. This has the potential to accurately identify the presence of pathogens – like food-borne pathogens – on the spot, so disease can be prevented or properly treated.

Xagenic has an innovative, rapid point-of-care diagnostic screening device that can detect deadly infections and enable disease diagnosis at the patient bedside. It is a cost-effective solution that has great potential to impact disease treatment in developing countries.

Changing the world takes just one idea and an initiative like Grand Challenges Canada to see it through.

As a Canadian, I have the natural pride that comes with loving your native country. A country’s history is comprised of high points and low points, and Grand Challenges is an undeniably notable high.

The first winner in this challenge, awarded at the beginning of this year, was Dr. Timothy Geary of McGill University. He got $1 million for his research addressing parasitic diseases through medicines derived from African biodiversity. (Read more.)

Canadians are on the forefront of change – what ideas do YOU have?