Gates Foundation Invests in 104 Novel Ideas for Global Health

    Scientists from Diverse Set of Disciplines and Regions Receive $100,000
Each to Explore Bold, Untested Projects

    BANGKOK, Thailand, Oct. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation today announced 104 grants to explore bold and largely
unproven ways to improve global health.  The grants of US$100,000 each will be
made to scientists from 22 countries and five continents.  They mark the first
round of funding from Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative to help
lower the barriers for testing innovative ideas in global health.

    The initial set of grants will inject fresh perspective into research for
preventing or curing infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB, and limiting
the emergence of drug resistance.  Successful applicants showed how their
project falls outside current scientific paradigms and could lead to
significant advances if successful - in just two pages.

    "We were hoping this program would level the playing field so anyone with
a transformational idea could more quickly assess its potential for the
benefit of global health," said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of global health
at the Gates Foundation, who announced the grants at the fourth annual meeting
of the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative in Bangkok.  "The quality
of the applications exceeded all of our expectations.  It was so hard for
reviewers to champion just one great idea that we selected almost twice as
many projects for funding as we had initially planned."

    One hundred and four grants were selected from nearly 4,000 proposals,
with the geographic distribution of applicants largely matching the geographic
distribution of awards. The applicant details were not provided to reviewers,
helping them to focus on the innovation of the idea instead of a scientist's
credentials, geographic location, or organization's reputation.

    All levels of scientists are represented, including young investigators
who never before have received a research grant, and those who were applying
experience from other fields like bioengineering.  Grants were made to
universities and other nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and six
private companies.

    Projects cover a wide range of innovation, including a "mosquito
flashlight" to prevent malaria transmission by disrupting wavelengths,
self-destructing TB cells, and studying anti-infective properties of the eye
to help prevent HIV/AIDS and other infectious disease.  A few examples of
funded projects follow:

    --  Mimicking effective natural processes to limit infectious disease:
        --  Pattamaporn Kittayapong at Mahidol University in Thailand will
            explore new approaches for controlling dengue fever by studying
            bacteria with natural abilities to limit the disease.
        --  Suzanne Fleiszig at the University of California, Berkeley, in the
            U.S. will focus on the natural defenses of the human eye to
            discover new classes of broad-spectrum anti-microbial agents.
        --  Elizabeth Sockett at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. will
            study whether the best medicine against some disease-causing
            bacteria may be a "living antibiotic" made up of microorganisms
            that naturally prey on harmful ones.

    --  Engineering ways to enhance the natural human immune system:
        --  Leonard Damelin at the National Health Laboratory Service in South
            Africa will attempt to improve bacteria that naturally line the
            walls of the vagina and cervix in order to enhance their ability
            fight infections.
        --  Yen Wah Tong at the National University of Singapore will attempt
            to create nanoparticles to "soak up" viruses circulating in the
            body; the particles will be imprinted with the viruses in order to
            mimic the three-dimensional structure of cells that the virus
            normally tries to infect.
        --  Jord Stam at Utrecht University in the Netherlands will attempt to
            create "two-sided" antibodies to fight HIV; one side would attach
            to HIV, and the other side would safely deposit the virus in cells
            in which it cannot replicate.
        --  Sanah Jowhari at TheraCarb, a biotechnology company in Canada,
            apply technology to capture and remove the cholera toxin from the
            body of a host, and validate an approach to developing an
            drug candidate for cholera.

    --  Probing unexpected results for global health:
        --  Elijah Songok at the Kenya Medical Research Institute will explore
            whether natural resistance to HIV may be linked to genetic markers
            for type 2 diabetes.
        --  Huan Nguyen at the International Vaccine Institute in Korea will
            follow up on the unexpected finding that a fluorescent green
            protein originally intended as a research control could be the
            basis of a highly effective influenza vaccine.

    --  Exploring hypotheses that challenge conventional wisdom:
        --  Mike McCune at the University of California, San Francisco, in the
            U.S. suggests that the best immune response to HIV may be no
            response at all, because the immune cells that are marshaled to
            fight the virus are the same cells that HIV infects.
        --  Hiroyuki Matsuoka at Jichi Medical University in Japan thinks it
            may be possible to turn mosquitoes that normally transmit disease
            into "flying syringes," so that when they bite humans they deliver

    A complete list of the funded projects is available at

    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.

    The Explorations initiative uses an agile, streamlined grant process. 
Applications are limited to two pages, and preliminary data are not required. 
Proposals are reviewed and selected by a committee of foundation staff and
external experts, and grant decisions are made within approximately three
months of the close of the funding round.

    Applications for the second round of Grand Challenges Explorations are
being accepted through November 2, 2008, and topics for the third round will
be announced in early 2009.  Grant application instructions, including the
list of topic areas in which proposals are currently being accepted, are
available at

    Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.  In
developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them
the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.  In the
United States, it seeks to ensure that all people, especially those with the
fewest resources, have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in
school and life.  Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes
and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda
Gates and Warren Buffett.


For further information:

For further information: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
+1-206-709-3400, Web Site:

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