On Wednesday, October 22, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced the 104 groups of scientists that won funding in Round 1 of the Grand Challenges Explorations. Winners came from from 22 countries and five continents and received $100,000 to research their innovating medical ideas.
Some of the winners include:
- Pattamaporn Kittayapong of Mahidol University in Thailand will study how Wolbachia, a symbiotic bacteria that infects many species of insects, may limit dengue virus infection in mosquitoes.
- Leonard Damelin with South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases will investigate whether anti-HIV molecules can be introduced into Lactobacillus bacteria populations typically found in the cervix and vagina of healthy women. Lactobacillus has already been found to provide a natural barrier against HIV, and Damelin hopes that his project will further fortify this protection.
- Canadian Scientist Volker Gerdts of Canada’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization wants to use viral vectors to immunize babies prior to birth.
- Nikita Malavia, recently awarded a doctorate in chemical and biochemical engineering, has teamed up with MIT’s Robert Langer to engineer nanoparticles that mimic host cells. It is hoped that these “decoys” will trick viruses into releasing their genetic material, which then is destroyed by the decoy.
- Alexandre Alcais of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research will explore why a substantial portion of people exposed to tuberculosis never become infected with the disease. Using full genome scans, Alcais will study whether there is a genetic basis for innate resistance to TB infection.
If the grants show promise, the Foundation will offer a secondary, two-year grant of $1 million to continue the research. Grant winners must agree that if their research results in breakthroughs, the results will be made available at affordable prices so that they can benefit the developing world.
Read more about the process after the innovative application process after the jump.
The Gates Foundation has decided to forego some of the more standard application processes (like peer review) because it believes some of those processes stifle innovation. Instead of asking for proven results before applying for funding, the Foundation asks instead for an outline of a hypothesis and a way of testing it. The application process is simply a two-page form. The proposals were evaluated by entrpreneurs rather than people simply with medical expertise.