The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a five-year, $100 million commitment to create a fast-track grants initiative for innovative global health research.
The Grand Challenges Explorations initiative will aim to encourage scientists worldwide to explore creative, unorthodox ideas that could lead to major breakthroughs against some of the greatest health challenges facing poor countries. To that end, the initiative will support hundreds of early-stage research projects, including many that are pursuing untested ideas involving scientists from a wide range of disciplines. The initiative will focus on rapidly evaluating several ideas that could lead to new vaccines, diagnostics, drugs, and technologies targeting diseases that claim millions of lives every year.
The effort, an expansion of the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative launched in 2003 to accelerate the discovery of new technologies to improve global health, will employ a significantly different grantmaking approach than the foundation has used in the past. Grant applicants will be asked to submit relatively short funding proposals, which will be reviewed on a fast-track schedule. Projects selected for funding will receive approximately $100,000 each, and those that are successful will be eligible for additional funding. The call for proposals will be announced during the first half of 2008, with grants to be awarded multiple times a year on a rolling basis and each funding round addressing specific topics or themes.
"The biggest advances in health often come from unexpected places," said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation's Global Health Program. "To effectively tackle diseases like AIDS and malaria, we need to encourage the best and brightest minds to take risks on novel ideas. Not all will bear fruit, but those that do could revolutionize the field of global health."