Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

From Assessing Family Planning Needs to Accelerating Drug Development for Childhood Diarrhea - Big Ideas from Grand Challenges Explorations Latest Awardees

November 15, 2016

Today we are excited to announce the new cohort of 56 Grand Challenges Explorations Phase I winners. The Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) initiative is based on the principle that great ideas can come from anywhere. Twice each year, GCE invites high-risk, high-reward proposals on a range of challenges, and the program is open to anyone from any discipline, from student to tenured professor, and from any organization, including colleges and universities, government laboratories, research institutions, non-profit organizations, and for-profit companies.

In this 17th round of GCE, the awardees were selected from over 1400 applications from 98 countries in our request for proposals against six specific challenges. Two topics focused family planning: the topic  Assess Family Planning Needs, Preferences and Behaviors to Inform Innovations in Contraceptive Technologies and Services sought ideas to generate new knowledge and evidence around family planning needs, preference, and behaviors among users and non-users, and the topic Develop Novel Platforms to Accelerate Contraceptive Drug Discovery sought new ideas to address the existing barriers around contraceptive drug discovery – not seeking new drugs, but rather new tools and platforms to aid in drug discovery. Similarly, the topic Accelerate Development of New Therapies for Childhood Cryptosporidium Infection sought new ideas for technologies and tools to facilitate working with Cryptosporidium, a parasite that is a major cause of diarrhea, to support the development of new therapeutics. The Design New Analytics Approaches for Malaria Elimination sought to rethink malaria surveillance with a focus on new solutions to address data availability and decision-making for malaria elimination. In addition, two topics repeated from the previous round sought Novel Approaches to Characterizing and Tracking the Global Burden of Antimicrobial Resistance and to Explore New Solutions in Global Health Priority Areas. A few of the 56 projects from 11 countries we are announcing today include:

  • Two game-based ideas to better understand family planning needs:

    • Elmar Stroomer of Design without Borders Uganda Ltd. in Uganda will develop an interactive game combining methods from game-based learning to collect data on decisions made around family planning in Uganda.

    • Elena Bertozzi of Quinnipiac University and Aparna Sridhar from UCLA School of Medicine in the U.S. will design a game-like tool to identify cultural norms that influence future family planning decisions in adolescent school children in Karnataka, India, to help improve contraceptive education.

  • Marcos Barreto of Universidade Federal da Bahia in Brazil will build a platform that routinely integrates surveillance data from malaria with socioeconomic and health care data, and also provides open access and support for data analysis.

  • Kevin Osteen of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the U.S. will develop a three-dimensional cell model that mimics the interior of the human uterus (endometrium), which consists of several different cell types and a vascular system, that can be used to discover new contraceptives and therapeutics.

  • Xun Suo of China Agricultural University in China will develop a rabbit model of cryptosporidiosis that mimics the human disease, which presents as severe diarrhea particularly in young children, to help identify new treatments.

  • Gautam Dantas of Washington University in the U.S. will measure the effect of the routine use of antibiotics to treat severe malnutrition or to minimize the risk of HIV infection in young children, on the bacterial populations and antimicrobial resistance genes in the gut.

  • Rebecca Traub of the University of Melbourne in Australia will develop a method to preserve fresh stool so that it can be transported over longer distances to central laboratories and used to diagnose intestinal parasites and monitor the different types.

For the full list, please visit the Grand Challenges website.

These partners, like all GCE partners, are selected as part of a blinded and champion-based review process for the potentially transformative ideas they present. GCE Phase I awards receive $100,000 USD and 18 months to test out the idea proposed and ideally achieve proof of concept. Successful Phase I projects that maintain the innovative focus and are strategically aligned with the foundation’s goals may receive Phase II funding. Today, we are also thrilled to highlight two GCE Phase II grantees who have received additional funding to continue work on their great ideas. A list of all GCE Phase I grants receiving follow-on funding can be found here.

  • Robert Gorkin of the University of Wollongong in Australia will continue work on the development and testing of tough hydrogels as an alternative material to latex for making male condoms with enhanced tactile (touch) sensitivity to improve sexual experience.

  • Phillip Tarr of Washington University in the U.S. will optimize and evaluate the method he developed to evaluate gut permeability by measuring levels of ingested fluorescent molecules non-invasively through the skin.

Please join us in congratulating the 56 GCE Phase I winners along with those who recently received follow-on funding! We wish them success in their endeavors to solve tough challenges in global health and development.

Applications for the next round of Grand Challenges Explorations will be accepted beginning in February 2017. To receive email updates with the latest grant opportunities for the Grand Challenges family of programs, sign-up here.

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