Grad Student a ‘Global Health Star,’ Nabs $500,000 Award

May 22, 2014 - News Release

A University of Guelph graduate student will receive up to $500,000 for a project to help combat life-threatening anemia. Gavin Armstrong, a PhD biomedical sciences student, received a “Stars in Global Health” award from Grand Challenges Canada (GCC) today.

The government-backed agency focuses on improving global health, especially the lives of women and children in developing countries, through science, technology, and social and business innovation. In total, GCC is investing $12 million in 65 initiatives across the country. Armstrong’s project is one of four receiving the largest allocations, sharing $2.6 million in scale-up grants and loans.

The agency will match any funds that Armstrong receives from donors, grants or investors for his Lucky Iron Fish™ Project up to $500,000.

The Lucky Iron Fish™ is a palm-sized chunk of iron placed into water that is being sterilized or used to prepare food; boiling adds iron to the food and water. It can help provide about 75 per cent of daily iron requirements and increase the body’s iron stores.

The concept was developed by former Guelph graduate student Christopher Charles. Armstrong is commercializing the product in Cambodia and other regions worldwide plagued by iron deficiency anemia.

“It’s a bold, simple idea that has the ability to impact over three billion lives around the planet,” Armstrong said.

“The GCC support is an amazing opportunity to advance the research being done in Cambodia.” He plans to use the funds to conduct two large community-based clinical trials in two Cambodian provinces and to partner with major aid agencies in the region.

GCC matched $120,000 that Armstrong earlier received from his U of G Commercialization Fellowship in 2013. He was one of two inaugural recipients of the new fellowship, created by the Office of the President as part of the University’s BetterPlanet Project.

“The one-to-one matching element has been a major driver for continued investment in the project,” Armstrong said. He is finalizing a $300,000 donation and plans to raise the additional $80,000.

Grand Challenges works closely with Canada’s International Development Research Centre, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.

The Lucky Iron Fish™ Project was recognized this spring at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in March. The project also netted Armstrong a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship in 2013. He spent the year studying and researching at the University of Auburn’s College of Human Sciences.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338,; or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982,

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