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ARUSHA, Tanzania -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced 76 grants of US$100,000 each to pursue bold ideas for transforming health in developing countries. The grants support researchers in 16 countries with ideas as diverse as a developing an electronic nose to diagnose tuberculosis and using chocolate to help prevent malaria.
“Some of the biggest stumbling blocks in global health are now being overcome with promising new vaccines and treatments,” said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program. “Grand Challenges Explorations will continue to fill the pipeline with possibilities and hopefully produce a breakthrough idea that could save untold numbers of lives.”
In three rounds of the foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations initiative, 262 researchers representing 30 countries have been awarded grants. Newly-funded projects include efforts to develop a paper cup that turns TB-positive sputum samples a bright orange, use a peptide found in scorpions to block development of the malaria parasite, and adapt a protein that parasites use to seal their egg cases as a “sticky coating” for intranasal vaccines.
Grantees from round 3 were selected from almost 3,000 proposals. All levels of scientists are represented – from young post-graduate investigators to veteran researchers – as are a wide range of disciplines, such as chemistry, bioengineering, electronics, mechanical engineering, infectious disease, and epidemiology. They are based at universities, research institutes, nonprofit organizations, and private companies around the world. Examples include:
Innovative ways to diagnose infectious diseases:
Andrew Fung of University of California, Los Angeles aims to develop chewing gum that can detect malaria biomarkers in saliva;
Ranjan Nanda of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology in India will attempt to create a handheld “electronic nose” that gathers and analyzes breath samples to diagnose tuberculosis;
Udantha Abeyratne of the University of Queensland in Australia will equip mobile phones and mp3 players with microphones to record cough and sleep sounds, which could then be screened to diagnose pneumonia.
New strategies to fight malaria and mosquitoes:
Steven Maranz of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York will test the ability of a compound found in chocolate to keep malaria at bay;
Annette Habluetzel of the University of Camerino in Italy will create a micropellet food which, when activated by the sun, could generate toxins that kill mosquito larvae;
Peter Lubega Yiga of AdhocWorks Foundation in South Africa will test the efficacy of a fermentation-based household mosquito repellant.
More effective vaccines:
Cecil Czerkinsky of the International Vaccine Institute in Korea will explore whether vaccines administered under the tongue can produce strong immune responses in distant organs such as the lungs and reproductive tract;
Margaret Njoroge of Med Biotech Laboratories in Uganda will develop an intranasal vaccine for mothers, designed to induce antibodies against malaria in breast milk and confer immunity on their babies;
Kate Edwards, at the University of San Diego will study how a brief bout of exercise may enhance the efficiency of pneumococcal vaccine.
About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a five-year, $100 million initiative to promote innovation in global health. It is part of the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, which is supported by the Gates Foundation to achieve major breakthroughs in global health. Applications for the next round of Grand Challenges Explorations are being accepted through November 2, 2009. Grant application instructions, including the list of topics for which proposals are currently being accepted, are available at the Grand Challenges Explorations web site.