Tag Archives: Grand Challenges Canada

Thank-Science-Giving: The Nobel Prize, Science Now and Science Future

Picture from http://funmike.com/

Every year in early October the Nobel Prize winners are announced.  For those of us in Canada, this coincides with our Canadian Thanksgiving, which is celebrated the second Monday in October every year.

Call me a NERD but to me this is an appropriate pairing:  Thanksgiving — a time to reflect on what we have in our lives — and the Nobel Prize – a time to reflect on a person’s lifetime of achievement.  Importantly, the contributions of the named Nobel Laureates have often have had an enormous impact on scientific methodology, scientific theory and/or the quality of health and life in general.  For instance, this includes recognition for the discovery of HIV (2008), development of the gene silencing (2006), and discovery of protein ubiquitination (2004).  And where would we be without PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)?  The Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to Kary Mullia and Michael Smith in 1993 for their discovery and work on PCR.

The achievements recognized in this year’s awards resonate through many aspects of our lives, from the optimism for the possibilities offered by therapeutic stem cells to the stabilization of the global economy.  Hopefully the dividends from these discoveries will be evident in the years to come.

If you knew me during the first couple of years of my PhD, then you heard me talk endlessly about Robert Lefkowitz and the biology of the trimeric G-protein protein couple receptors (GPCR) chemokine receptors.  I am sure all of Queen’s University heard my ramblings — I was GPCR OBSESSED.  Without Dr. Lefkowitz’s work, I probably would not have a PhD today, and for his work on GPCRs I am grateful.  Specifically Dr. Lefkowitz has made a significant impact on the field of drug development by elucidating the signalling, activation and desensitization of GPCRs which has been applied for the treatment of conditions such as ulcers and hypertension.  Therefore, I was super pumped to hear of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year going to Dr. Lefkowitz and Brain K. Kobilka”for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors“. 

The announcement for the Chemistry Nobel Prize on GPCRs got me thinking, “Who will win next year?  What researcher, technology or development has impacted the other areas of my scientific career or science and society in general significantly enough to be deserving of the NEXT Nobel Prize?”

I believe a new tone has been set for global science and health care. Specifically, the work by  Grand Challenges Canada is leading the way for global scientific development.  Their platform encompasses the utilization of scientific innovation to improve health care and build scientific discovery in low-income countries.  Grand Challenges Canada has received global attention by Scientific and Global Health Organizations including the prestigious scientific publication Nature, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and USAID.  Grand Challenges Canada has implemented programs for solving health-care challenges through the following in initiatives:  Stars in Global Health, Saving Lives at Birth, Saving Brains, and Global Mental Health.  Importantly, the Stars in Global Health programme supports collaborations between Canada and lower income countries  for the development of scientific innovations for resolving global health challenges.  Essentially, its aim is to utilize scientific discovery to directly improve the health problems in lower income countries. I believe that the work being conducted requires both scientific and health-care novelty and knowledge and will have a significant global impact.  To me, I can’t think of anything more fabulous than using science, scientific initiatives and global collaborations to directly solve world issues and I feel these efforts should be recognized.

Now I ask YOU.  What researcher or what technology do you see as deserving of a Nobel Prize?  Or what innovation do you see as having a significant impact on science or society in the next 10 years?  What Scientific Discovery are you personally thankful for? I would love to know your thoughts…


This year the awards were as follows:

My Post on The Book The Grandest Challenge by Dr. Abdallah S. Daar and Dr. Peter A. Singer can be read here


Filed under News, Science Thoughts

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 http://www.mrcglobal.org/peter_singer

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 http://www.grandchallenges.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/thegrandchallengesapproach.pdf).

Abdallah S. Daar Image from http://www.mrcglobal.org/abdallah_daar

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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