Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Grandest Challenge: The Book Launch

On Tuesday, September 13th, I received a book in the mail.  Not just any book, but a book that I believe will set the tone for a new area of science and health care.  I was honoured to be chosen to receive the book The Grandest Challenge1 written by Dr. Abdallah S. Daar and Dr. Peter A. Singer

The tag-line Taking Life-Saving Science from Lab to Village beautifully encompasses the purpose of the book which details the journey of Abdallah and Peter as they combine their enthusiasm for basic science with passion for equal health care world-wide.  Both men are currently professors at the University of Toronto and hold numerous other titles and prizes, including advising the WHO, UN and the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation1.

Peter A. Singer Image from

Notably one of the most exciting initiatives which Abdallah and Peter are part of is the internationally recognized Grand Challenges Canada.  The mission of the Grand Challenges is to identify critical barriers disabling progress in the world’s lowest economic countries and thereby propose and implement solutions to aid development. 

 From the publication Grand Challenges Canada2, a Grand Challenge is defined:

A “Grand Challenge in global health” has been defined as: “A specific scientific or technological innovation that would remove a critical barrier to solving an important health problem in the developing world with a high likelihood of global impact and feasibility”3

Or, put more simply:

“A specific critical barrier that if removed would help to solve an important health problem”4

In the 2008, the Government of Canada announced the creation of the Development Innovation Fund (DIF), which has the mandate to

Support the best minds in the world as they search for breakthroughs in global health and other areas that have the potential to bring about enduring changes in the lives of the millions of people in poor countries (Grand Challenges Canada publication 2

Abdallah S. Daar Image from

The concept of Grand Challenges has been published in numerous scientific journals including Science (Varmus et al., Science 2003) and Nature (Daar et al., Nature 2007) 3, 4.

This past Wednesday was the launch of The Grandest Challenge1 for which I was in attendance.  I was privileged to meet both Abdallah and Peter as they introduced their book to an absorbed audience.  The doctors humbly thanked their teams as well as their families.  It is obvious to me that their dedication to global healthcare stems from their absolute love for their families. 

A book discussion was conducted on Thursday and unfortunately I was unable to attend.  Fortunately, Stephane Paquette, a student from my lab, was able to go.  Look for his post coming soon summarizing the discussions of The Grandest Challenge with Abdallah and Peter.  Stephane has excellent analytical and writing skills and I am looking forward to reading his post.

At the moment, I am partially through the book.  Once I have finished I will post a summary and review of The Grandest Challenge1.  What I have read has been a fascinating mix of basic science, descriptions of global challenges and personal stories – a very humanized reflection of scientific advances in the 2000s.          

The Grandest Challenge can be purchased from Random House Canada here.  For more information on the book or Grand Challenges Canada, you can go to The Grandest Challenge Facebook page or the Grand Challenges website or the Grand Challenges Facebook page





Reference List


        1.            Singer,P.A. & Daar,A.S. The Grandest Challenge: taking life-saving science from lab to village (Doubleday Canada, Random House of Canada Ltd.,2011).

        2.            Singer,P.A., Daar,A.S., & Brook D. Grand Challenges Canada.  2011.

Ref Type: Online Source

        3.            Varmus,H. et al. Public health. Grand Challenges in Global Health. Science 302, 398-399 (2003).

        4.            Daar,A.S. et al. Grand challenges in chronic non-communicable diseases. Nature 450, 494-496 (2007).

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Filed under Events, News, Uncategorized

Some Friday Science Fun! Contagion

For a little Friday Science Fun I thought I would share a video ad for the new movie Contagion that came out last week.  This youtube video was originally shared with me by Ana Carolina, a recent JIDC Postcard writer.

The BIOLOGICAL billboard for the Contagion movie is a true intersection of Science, Art and Media.  The creators used microorganisms to seed the word CONTAGION on a glass panel.  The glass panel was then hung in a store window, and the word contagion grew.

Apparently the sign is or was hanging in a Toronto store window.  As you may know Toronto, Canada, is the location of the JIDC Canada office and my home.  And I can’t believe I have not seen the sign yet.   I don’t know where it is but I MUST find this sign.  I will walk the streets until I find it and, if I do, I will post a picture of it for you.  Below are some pictures of me roaming the streets of Toronto looking for this CONTAGION.

I have not seen the Contagion movie yet either but I have heard some very good reviews.  Have any of you seen the movie or are you planning on seeing it?  If you have seen it, did you enjoy it?  Did you find the content scientifically accurate? And was it enjoyable as entertainment and science?…….Sciencetainment?!

Although it looks incredibly interesting and fun, my concern with a production of this kind is that the subject of the movie plays into the public’s fears of emerging viruses.  Could this be an effective way to educate people on ways to contain emerging infectious diseases such as new strains of influenza?…Or is it just a way to increase anxiety and panic in the general population?    I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this topic.

I feel that the production of this movie may be a sign of the spreading interest in science through the general public.  I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this movie and see this movie myself.  Maybe this weekend……just need to get a babysitter first!


Looking in a Dundas Street windowNope…Not here!Nothing yet….


Filed under News

The 1st International Conference on Drug Therapy in TB Infection

This Blog Post was received from Dr. Abubaker Yaro, Editor-In-Chief for the scientific journal Annals of Tropical Medicine & Public Health. Here Dr Yaro announces the 1st International Conference on Drug Therapy in TB Infection, in Post 1 of a two-part Post describing the conference and the current state of Tuberculosis Drug Therapy. Here in Post 1, Dr Abubakar Yaro describes the conference and its objectives. Expect TB Drug Conference Post 2 soon.

The Africa Health Research Organization, AHRO, presents the International Conference on Drug Therapy in TB Infection

What: First International Conference on Drug Therapy in TB Infection
When: 6-7 January 2012
Where: Edinburgh Scotland
Who: Presented by AHRO, Africa Health Research Organization


WHY: The Problem
TB remains one of the most important public health issues worldwide. Globally it is estimated that 8.8 million new cases occur annually and of these 3.9 million are smear positive. Although there is an effective therapy through the DOT strategy and the majority of the global population are BCG vaccinated, the public health burden of TB is quite staggering. New and shorter-period drugs and vaccines are urgently needed as well as a forum where stakeholders can meet to exchange ideas.

The Event


This highly educative and exciting event aims to gather researchers, physicians, allied health workers and policy makers in Edinburgh, Scotland, from 6 to 7 January 2012 to share information on issues regarding TB medicine. There will be no concurrent sessions and the Conference committee are still accepting abstracts for the event. Abstracts, which should be no longer than 300 words, can be submitted to

Barceló Edinburgh Carlton Hotel Image from Hotel website

Invited Speakers 

• Professor Anthony Coates, St George’s University of London, UK
• Dr. Ian Laurenson, Director, Scottish Mycobacterium Reference Lab, Scotland
• Dr. Eisin McDonald, Health Protection Agency, Scotland
• Associate Professor Robert A Ollar, Berth Israel Medical Center, USA
• Emeritus Professor Peter Beverley, University of Oxford, UK
• Dr Amina Jindani, St George’s University of London, UK
• Dr. Zarir F Udwadia, Hinduja Hospital India & Author of Principles Of Respiratory Medicine
• Dr. Michel Tibayrenc, MIVEGEC Bolivia & Editor in Chief, Genetics & Evolution Elsevier
• Professor Hazel M Dockrell, LSHTM, UK
• Professor Stephen H Gillespie, University of St. Andrews, UK
• Professor Edith Sim, Oxford University, UK
• Dr Geoff Coxon, Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, UK
• Dr. Clifton Barry, National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, USA

Who Should Attend?
• Researchers
• Medical Officers
• Nurses
• Allied Health Workers
• Policy Makers
• Pharmaceutical Companies

Register Today:


• Biology & Epidemiology of TB
• TB Immunology & Pathogenesis
• Current TB Chemotherapy
• Drug Resistance
• HIV/TB: A Deadly Syndemic
• Current Strategies in TB Drug Development: From Bench to Bedside
• TB Vaccine: Concept & Progress

#1 Top Rated TB Conference

Look for Part 2 of this two-part Blog series on the First International Conference on Drug Therapy in TB Infection soon. Part 2 will include discussions on Problems of TB screening and diagnosis and the current state of TB drug therapy.


Filed under Events, Tuberculosis