SEATTLE -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced 65 grants of US$100,000 each to pursue bold ideas for transforming health in developing countries. The grants support projects in 16 countries with ideas as diverse as a TB vaccine delivered in a traditional Asian bean dish, a mobile phone tool to identify complications for community health workers caring for pregnant women and newborns, and solar powered, therapeutic blankets of light for newborns suffering from jaundice.
“Grand Challenges Explorations is producing innovative ways to tackle ongoing global health challenges like vaccine delivery and caring for mothers and newborns,” said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program. “By applying mobile technology and other tools to global health, we hope to produce breakthrough solutions that could save countless lives.”
In five rounds of the foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations initiative, 405 researchers representing 34 countries have been awarded grants. Projects in this round include developing a synthetic lymph node to deliver vaccines, creating a low cost needle-free treatment for post-partum bleeding, and making a mobile phone-based tool that combines diagnostic testing with economic incentives to improve drug compliance.
These grantees were selected from more than 2,400 proposals. A wide range of disciplines are represented, including applicants from traditional life sciences, public health, engineering, math and computer sciences. They are based at universities, research institutes, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, and private companies around the world.
Project examples include:
Innovative vaccine strategies:
Michael Chan of the Ohio State Research Foundation will develop a safe strain of the Tuberculosis bacterium and use it to ferment beans used in the traditional Asian dish natto, which could then be eaten as an oral TB vaccine;
Ali Salanti of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark will develop and test a vaccine combining a novel placental malaria vaccine candidate with the cervical cancer vaccine, with the potential of inducing a strong protective response against both diseases;
Steven Meshnick and Carla Hand of the University of North Carolina will develop a biodegradable “synthetic lymph node” that could be placed under the skin to deliver more effective vaccines.
Low-cost cell-phone applications for global health:
Terry Ferrari of World Vision will field test in central Mozambique two mobile phone modules that prompt community health workers caring for pregnant women and newborns to assess, take action, and to refer care in cases of complications and emergencies;
Mark Thomas of VaxTrac in the U.S. will field test a mobile phone-based vaccination registry that uses fingerprint scans to track those who have received immunizations in hopes of reducing redundant doses and boosting coverage levels in developing countries.
New family health strategies:
Arye Rosen of AMT, Inc., in the U.S., along with neonatologist Harel Rosen, will test a low-cost, solar-powered portable blanket that can provide light therapy to jaundiced infants;
Haim Breitbart of Bar-Ilan University in Israel will design and test molecules that would inactivate specific genes within sperm that are essential to the fertilization process to develop a reversible oral male contraceptive.
Md Abdul Quaiyum of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh will develop and test an inexpensive, biodegradable absorbent mat that can be placed under mothers who have just delivered babies to assess immediate postpartum blood loss. The mat can be weighed at regular intervals to measure absorbed blood, providing easy and early detection of postpartum hemorrhaging.
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 Round 6 of Grand Challenges Explorations will be accepted beginning in March 2011. Details are available at www.grandchallenges.org/explorations.
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