Previous Fora / 2011

SINGER, Peter A.

Professor, University of Toronto

Chief Executive Officer, Grand Challenges Canada

Peter A. Singer has dedicated the last decade to bringing science and innovation to tackle the health challenges of the world’s poorest people. He is well known around the world for his creative solutions to some of the most pressing global health problems.

Dr. Singer is Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada and Director at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, University Health Network and University of Toronto. He is also Professor of Medicine at University of Toronto, and the Foreign Secretary of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Dr. Singer chairs the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ new assessment on Canada’s Strategic Role in Global Health. He has advised the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UN Secretary General’s office, the Government of Canada, Pepsico, BioVeda China Venture Capital Fund, and several African Governments on global health.

In 2007, Dr. Singer received the Michael Smith Prize as Canada’s Health Researcher of the Year in Population Health and Health Services. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, the US Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS). Dr. Singer was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2011 for his contributions to health research and bioethics, and for his dedication to improving the health of people in developing countries.

Dr. Singer has published over 300 research articles, received over $50 million in research grants, and mentored hundreds of university students. He studied internal medicine at University of Toronto, medical ethics at University of Chicago, public health at Yale University, and management at Harvard Business School. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Dr. Heather Gilley, and his family, and has served his community as Board Chair of Branksome Hall, an acclaimed and internationally-minded school for girls.



14:30-16:30 17 NOVEMBER

Grand Challenges in Global Health

A child born in the developing world is 13 times more likely to die before reaching the age of five as one born in the rich world, while a pregnant woman in the developing world is 50 times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than her counterpart in the developed world. These shocking inequities are examples of the “grand challenges” that we face in global health.  Although they have many causes, social, scientific and business innovation will be critical for developing sustainable long-term solutions to these challenges.
Originating over 100 years ago in the domain of mathematics, the grand challenges approach to innovation articulates a set of specific critical barriers that, if removed, would help solve important health problem in the developing world and mobilizes teams of world-leading innovators to develop solutions to overcome these critical barriers.  Recently, the Grand Challenges approach has been applied to global health by a range of public, private and not-for-profit organizations including: the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, USAID, Norway, and the Global Alliance for Chronic Disease.  The approach is also being applied to agriculture, water, energy, and other fields. 
Initially the Grand Challenges approach focused primarily on scientific/technical innovation in global health.  More recently, the focus has shifted towards an Integrated Innovation approach which includes the coordinated application of scientific/technological, social and business innovation to develop solutions that can go to scale and be sustainable.  This approach does not discount the singular benefits of each of these types of innovation alone, but rather highlights the powerful synergies that can be realized by aligning all three.

Most fundamentally, the grand challenges approach to innovation can be seen as a governance model or ‘operating system’ whereby different groups, public and private, in different countries can form partnerships for collective action against the global challenges we all face.

Ultimately, the success of the Grand Challenges approach to innovation can be judged by its outcomes.  It is not enough simply to develop a solution to a critical challenge, is critical for the solution to go to scale in a sustainable manner where it is needed the most – moving from lab to village.
This talk will outline the grand challenges approach and illustrate how innovation can save lives.  It will take participants down the path from the lab to the village and explore some of the many hurdles along the way: scientific, ethical, and commercial.  Finally, it will look at the future of the Grand Challenges approach to innovation and some of the exciting developments that could emerge in the coming years.