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$200 Million Grant to Accelerate Research on "Grand Challenges" in Global Health

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announces grant to help overcome scientific roadblocks in AIDS, malaria, other diseases

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Charles Pucie
Foundation for the National Institutes of Health
Phone: 301.435.6248

DAVOS, Switzerland -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a $200 million grant to establish the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, a major new effort and partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The initiative will identify critical scientific challenges in global health and increase research on diseases that cause millions of deaths in the developing world. Today only 10 percent of medical research is devoted to the diseases that cause 90 percent of the health burden in the world, according to the Global Forum on Health Research.

"There is great potential for science and technology to solve persistent global health challenges, but far greater resources are needed," said Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "This initiative is about discovery and invention. It is about finding specific solutions to the hardest problems.  By accelerating research to overcome scientific obstacles in AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, millions of lives could be saved."

Gates announced the initiative today at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he participated in a panel discussion on "Science for the Global Good."

The new initiative will be administered by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH). The NIH also has agreed to provide scientific advice, expertise, and support. 

"This groundbreaking public-private partnership between the National Institutes of Health, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is an ideal complement to the NIH's efforts to improve global health," said Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Director of the National Institutes of Health. "With our respective partners, we will strive to create an unprecedented synergy, focused on engaging the best scientific minds of our time, maximizing the impact of our respective resources, and thus spurring creativity and innovation in this field for the ultimate benefit of all humankind."

As a partner in this new initiative, the NIH will identify activities that are appropriate for government funding. Possibilities include the parallel release of announcements to fund joint or associated projects, funding shared resources and training, and announcing funding opportunities for follow-up grants that complement the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative.

Harold Varmus to Chair Scientific Board
Nobel Laureate Dr. Harold Varmus, President of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and former Director of the National Institutes of Health, will chair a board of preeminent scientists who will guide and direct the initiative.

Other experts who have agreed to participate on the board include: Drs. Roy Anderson, Head of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the Imperial College of the University of London; Anthony Fauci, Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Nirmal Ganguly, Director General of the Indian Council for Medical Research; Julie Gerberding, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control; Richard D. Klausner, former Executive Director of the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Francis Nkrumah, Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at the University of Ghana; and Elias Zerhouni, Director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. 

The scientific board will identify and publish a focused set of critical problems, or "grand challenges," in global health, that—if solved—could lead to important advances against diseases of the developing world. The initiative will then provide competitive grants to teams of scientists around the world to search for solutions to each of the challenges.

"We live in an era of incredible innovation in science and technology, particularly in the area of medical research," said Dr. Richard Klausner, then executive director of the foundation's global health program. What's needed now is new funding to support scientists to articulate and prioritize great scientific challenges, and encourage novel research approaches. It is our hope that this will spur a new field of endeavor called global health science."

With input from scientists and public health leaders from around the world, the scientific board will identify the list of challenges. Examples of potential challenges to be considered include:

  • Finding novel approaches to preventing and treating HIV
  • Identifying an "Achilles heel" to block reactivation of latent TB
  • Investigating ways to make mosquitoes incapable of transmitting diseases such as malaria, dengue, and West Nile
  • Finding innovative approaches to protecting children from life-threatening diarrhea and respiratory infections
  • Identifying vehicles to deliver combinations of micronutrients to optimize child nutrition, cognition, and survival

The specific objectives of the initiative are to:

  • Articulate a set of critical challenges that the grants ultimately will address
  • Speed the creation of solutions to these critical challenges
  • Focus scientific attention on the most important diseases of the developing world
  • Support the most creative and innovative researchers throughout the world, developing solutions to bottlenecks caused by lack of knowledge, technology, or other challenges
  • Create communities of researchers working towards measurable outcomes
  • Raise the level of engagement of the scientific community, both public and private, around these challenges in global health

Grant proposals for up to $20 million to be invited this summer

The scientific board will publish the agreed-upon scientific challenges this summer, and the FNIH will issue a request for applications (RFA) for research projects to investigate them. Grants of up to $20 million will be awarded. 

While individual submissions will be entertained, the RFA will emphasize the importance of consortia—cross-discipline integration across programs, organizations, and institutions—in proposing the most innovative research and development approaches. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the premier medical research organization in the world. Directing most of the U.S. government's investment in medical research, NIH leads the way toward important medical discoveries that improve people's health and save lives. NIH investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. Composed of 27 Institutes and Centers, each with its own broadly defined mission, NIH provides leadership and financial support to researchers in every state and throughout the world.

The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) builds and fosters collaborative relationships with philanthropy, industry, and academia to support the mission of the National Institutes of Health—improving health through scientific discovery. FNIH is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 corporation authorized by and established at the direction of the United States Congress.

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