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Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit visited Little Norway Park in Toronto on November 9, 2016. The Royal visitors took part in a commemoration of the legacy of the Royal Norwegian Air Force’s training camp, located first in Toronto and then at Muskoka Airport.

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The Town of Gravenhurst is seeking interested partners to acquire and redevelop the land upon which Canada’s first tuberculosis sanatorium, the Muskoka Cottage Sanatorium, was located.  As noted in the August 4, 2016 Gravenhurst Banner above, expressions of interest are due by September 16, 2016.

Let’s hope some substantial proposals benefitting the community are submitted!

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Happy May 17, 2016 — Norway’s Constitution Day!

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March 24, 2016 is World Tuberculosis Day, a day which commemorates Dr. Robert Koch’s 1882 discovery of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. Dr. Koch’s pioneering work led to new methods of diagnosis and treatment for the disease, eventually saving millions of lives.

However, tuberculosis remains a serious threat, killing 1.5 million people world-wide each year. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has released a message for World TB Day, calling on the world to unite to defeat the TB epidemic.  Here is a link to his message:  http://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sgsm17626.doc.htm

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Happy 2016 everyone!

Here’s an interesting article announcing funding of $5 million for research into new and improved drug treatments to combat tuberculosis, malaria and other illnesses:

$5 Million in Funding for Research into Malaria and Tuberculosis Drug Discovery

Dec 16, 2015
Author:
Heidi Singer

University of Toronto and McGill University scientists are leading an international partnership to discover new and improved drug treatments for tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases  — thanks to a contribution from Merck Canada Inc., as well as an additional $5 million supplement to a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The new funding brings the total investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to nearly US $12 million since 2012.

Professor Aled EdwardsPROFESSOR ALED EDWARDS

“By taking advantage of complementary expertise, the University of Toronto and McGill University have a wonderful opportunity to play a leadership role on the global stage” says Aled Edwards, Director of the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), and a professor at the University of Toronto.  “Our new partnership builds on Ontario’s investment into structural genomics and drug discovery in the SGC at the University of Toronto, as well as on McGill’s long-standing leadership in parasitology, investments by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) into several laboratories in the United States, and the tremendous skills of our many colleagues from all over the world.”

SGC, a University of Toronto affiliated group of researchers, currently leads an international coalition of scientists attempting to find new treatments for malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases that cause widespread disability and death in resource poor countries.  In 2012, an initial $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped the Toronto team to bring together experts from academia and the pharmaceutical industry to create the Structure-Guided Drug Discovery Coalition (SDDC), an international partnership founded and coordinated by the SGC. An additional $2 million was added to the grant in 2014 to include diseases caused by parasitic worms and cryptosporidiosis.  Cryptosporidiosis, caused by a microscopic protozoan, is the world’s third most common cause of diarrhea, which kills hundreds of thousands of young children each year. The 2015 $5 million supplement from the Gates Foundation extends the research support for SDDC in the areas of tuberculosis, malaria and cryptosporidiosis.

The SDDC takes a unique approach to the search for new medications. Its researchers use cutting-edge tools such as crystallography to understand an enzyme’s atomic structure, and to design more potent drug-like molecules.

“Bringing together structural genomics and target-based medicinal chemistry with the strong parasitology expertise at McGill University is a powerful combination that puts us in a great position to contribute to the discovery of new medications for important global health issues”, says Chris Walpole, who leads the SDDC from McGill University.

Among its successes so far, the SDDC has discovered a  series of compounds that act on a novel tuberculosis protein target. A representative analogue has excellent activity in an in vivo model of tuberculosis.   The project is being carried forward with international collaborators and a compound could enter clinical trials within three years – an example of the speed at which drugs can be developed when broad coalitions of academic and industry partners work together. The coalition has also developed a series of antimalarial compounds that has reached the animal-testing stage as well as anti-cryptosporidium compounds that, in just five months, have shown efficacy and reached animal-testing.

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Today on November 11, 2015, we honour and gratefully thank the Canadians who fought for freedom and democracy in World War I, II and subsequent wars. We also remember the young Norwegians who risked their lives in escaping from their homeland — occupied by Hitler’s troops in 1940 — and fled to Canada to join the Royal Norwegian Air Force at “Little Norway” in Muskoka and Toronto.  After training at Little Norway, the young men returned overseas as pilots and aircrew and earned great respect for their successes in air battles against the enemy.

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Visiting Oslo, Norway this past August, we came across a statue of the late Captain Gunnar Sønsteby. Captain Sønsteby was a leading member of the Norwegian Resistance during Germany’s occupation of Norway in World War II.  He was involved in many daring acts of sabotage and went by many aliases —  the Nazis hunted him doggedly — but he was not captured.  After the war, Captain Sønsteby was highly decorated, receiving more honours for his Resistance work than did any other Norwegian citizen.  He passed away in 2012 at age 94.

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Gunnar Sønsteby, Oslo, Norway. An admirer had placed a rose behind the statue’s ear.

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May 17 is Norwegian National Day, always a day of celebration for the Norwegian community and its friends.  In Toronto the day was marked with speeches, music, national dress and more at Dufferin Grove Park.  There were even some Vikings!

Vikings at Norwegian Constitution Day, Toronto, 2015

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Seventy-five years ago on April 9, 1940, Hitler stunned the world by attacking Norway.  After a few weeks’ battle, German military might prevailed and the  German invaders occupied Norway — an occupation that would last throughout World War II.

Norway’s King and government fled to England, vowing to continue to fight the Nazis and regain their homeland.  To rebuild the Royal Norwegian Air Force, arrangements were made with Canada for the establishment of a training base for Norwegian aircrews here.  “Little Norway” was built first at the foot of Bathurst Street in Toronto.  In 1943, Little Norway moved to Muskoka Airport near Gravenhurst.

After their Canadian training, the Norwegians air crews returned overseas to fly with the British Royal Air Force, proving to be flying aces and helping to bring about the eventual Allied victory.

Canadians opened their homes and hearts to the Norwegians while they were at Little Norway and many of those friendships lasted a lifetime.  Visit the wonderful Little Norway Memorial at Muskoka Airport, Gravenhurst, for lots more information about this fascinating part of Canadian and Norwegian history.

 

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In the Toronto Star of April 9, 2015, there’s an interesting article about research into the origins of tuberculosis   Here’s a link to the article, “Ancient crypt offers clues about tuberculosis:”

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2015/04/08/ancient-hungarian-crypt-offers-clues-to-tuberculosis-origins.html

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In recognition of 2015’s World Tuberculosis Day, a salute to the doctors, nurses, scientists and caregivers who work every day to defeat this ancient and persistent disease.

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Robillard Collection.

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It’s been 20 years since the Muskoka Centre, a facility for the intellectually disabled, closed in Gravenhurst.  The original institution on the facility’s site was the Muskoka Cottage Sanatorium, a tuberculosis hospital, which opened in 1897.  Between December 8 and 12, 2014, Muskoka To-DAILY.com looked back at the tuberculosis sanatoria in a series of 5 excerpts from Curing Tuberculosis in Muskoka.  Read more in Muskoka To-DAILY: Archives– December, 2014 at http://www.muskokatodaily.com/

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Had a great time speaking to Gravenhurst’s Rotary Club on Monday, November 24th about Curing Tuberculosis in Muskoka.  One interesting point:  the Rotary Club’s first president was Dr. Walter Kendall, who was also physician-in-chief at the Muskoka tuberculosis sanatoria for over 3 decades.

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It was wonderful to meet health professionals at the Ontario Lung Association’s Tuberculosis Conference on November 19, 2014, held here in Toronto.  These dedicated individuals are continuing to battle tuberculosis, humanity’s ancient enemy, and deserve our thanks.

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Delighted to have been invited to sell/sign copies of “Curing Tuberculosis in Muskoka” at the Ontario Lung Association’s Tuberculosis Conference at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel, Toronto, on November 19th!

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It’s October 2014 and 119 years ago this month, Gravenhurst’s  Mayor Charles Mickle wrote to William Gage on behalf of the town council, encouraging him to locate Canada’s first tuberculosis sanatorium in Gravenhurst.  Mayor Mickle told William Gage that the town would provide $10,000 towards the cost of the sanatorium if it was built in the vicinity.  This generous offer was later overwhelmingly approved by Gravenhurst’s voters and in turn, accepted by William Gage and his colleagues.  Canada’s first tuberculosis hospital, the Muskoka Cottage Sanatorium, opened up in 1897.

As we hear about the terrible ravages of the ebola virus in West Africa and measures being taken to try and prevent its transmission to other parts of the world, Gravenhurst’s decision 119 years ago seems remarkable.  The town’s citizens welcomed a sanatorium dedicated to people suffering from a contagious and usually-fatal disease, tuberculosis.  As a wise man recently asked me, would we be so brave and compassionate now, if, for instance, someone wanted to build  a hospital to treat ebola patients near our own homes?  Food for thought.

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Manticore book signing, June 7, 2014

Had a great time at a book-signing for Curing Tuberculosis in Muskoka on June 7th at Manticore Books, Orillia, Ontario.  Met lots of people and heard some great personal stories about family members’ experiences in the Gravenhurst tuberculosis sanatoria. Thanks to all who dropped by to say hello!  — Andrea Baston

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Just read an interesting article in the August 22, 2104 edition of the Toronto Star.

According to a study by Arizona State University, tuberculosis may have been introduced to the Americas by seals and sea lions. It has long been thought that European explorers brought the disease to North and South America, but this study suggests a strain existed there long before the explorers arrived.  The  theory is that sea mammals contracted tuberculosis from humans in Africa and those mammals carried it across the ocean to South America.  The disease then spread to North America.

Some experts dispute the theory, but it is an intriguing one!