The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced 104 grants of $100,000 each to scientists from twenty-two countries and five continents to explore innovative and largely unproven ways to improve global health. The awards mark the first round of funding from the foundation's Grand Challenges Explorations initiative.
The grants are intended to support fresh perspectives into research for preventing or curing infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as well as limiting the emergence of drug resistance. Spearheaded by scientists at universities, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and six private companies, the selected projects cover a wide range of innovation, from self-destructing TB cells, to a "mosquito flashlight" designed to prevent malaria transmission by disrupting wavelengths, to the study of anti-infective properties of the eye to help prevent HIV/AIDS and other infectious disease.
Within two pages, grant applicants were required to explain how their projects fell outside current scientific paradigms and could lead to significant advances if successful, either by mimicking effective natural processes to limit infectious disease, engineering ways to enhance the human immune system, probing unexpected results for global health, or exploring hypotheses that challenge conventional wisdom. While the awards represent a wide geographic distribution, review panels were not provided with a scientist's credentials, organizational affiliation, or location, allowing them to focus solely on the innovation of an idea.
"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 the foundation's global health program. "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."
For a complete list of funded projects, visit the Gates Foundation Web site.