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SEATTLE -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada today announced over USD $31 million in new grants through the Grand Challenges in Global Health program to fund innovative ideas for point-of-care diagnostics in the developing world. Grand Challenges in Global Health is an initiative that seeks to engage creative minds across scientific disciplines to work on solutions that could lead to breakthrough advances for those in the world’s poorest countries.
The grants announced today are part of the Point-of-Care Diagnostics (POC Dx) Initiative, a research and development program with the goal of creating new diagnostic platforms that enable high-quality, low-cost diagnosis of disease, and also facilitate sustainable markets for diagnostic products, a key challenge in the developing world. This first phase of the POC Dx Initiative is focused on developing new technologies and identifying implementation issues to address the key barriers for clinical diagnostics in the developing world.
“New and improved diagnostics to use at the point of care can help health workers around the world save countless lives,” said Chris Wilson, Director of Global Health Discovery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Our hope is that these bold ideas lead to affordable, easy-to-use tools that can rapidly diagnose diseases, trigger timelier treatment and thereby reduce death, disability and transmission of infections in resource-poor communities.”
Diagnostic tests that are robust, inexpensive, and simple to use in point-of-care settings have the ability to greatly improve the quality and efficacy of healthcare available to people living in developing countries, where the burden of disease is highest. The grants announced today will fund the development of technologies that could allow health workers to rapidly diagnose diseases at the point of care in remote and impoverished settings.
Examples of projects receiving funding:
Seventh Sense Biosystems, a company located in Cambridge MA, is developing TAP—a painless, low-cost blood collection device which aims to allow easy, push-button sampling of blood. This simple collection process would reduce training requirements and enable diagnostics closer to the point of need.
David Beebe and researchers at the University of Wisconsin are developing a sample purification system that seeks to better filter and concentrate biomarkers from patient samples. This system will be designed for use in impoverished settings.
Axel Scherer of the California Institute of Technology, along with collaborators at Dartmouth College, will develop a prototype quantitative PCR (qPCR) amplification/detection component module—a low cost, easy-to-use technology that can rapidly detect a wide range of diseases.
In addition to the technology development and implementation efforts, the POC Dx Initiative aims to catalyze a “diagnostics revolution” for the developing world. By defining standards for point-of-care diagnostics, including a flexible modular design, a user could potentially run numerous diagnostic tests on a single instrument, reducing cost and complexity within the healthcare system.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: 12 grantees, USD $21.1 million
Grand Challenges Canada: 10 grantees, CAD $10.8 million