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GATES FOUNDATIONS GRAND CHALLENGES INITIATIVE

Gates Foundation donates for a good cause

Gates Foundation's Grand Challenges Initiatives to help better lives in vulnerable third world countries

BY OUR PHARMA CORRESPONDENT

 

June 28, 2005: Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, a major contributor to the "Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative," has announced 43 grants for research projects, totaling $436 million. The Grand Challenges is significant effort to achieve scientific breakthroughs against diseases ravaging millions of people every year in poor countries.

The grants wll go to fund innovative research projects involving scientists in 33 countries. The objective of the initiative is to create “deliverable technologies” – that is, health tools which are not only effective, but also cheap to produce, easy to distribute, and simple to use in poor nations.

The Grand Challenges initiative is backed by a $450 million support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, besides 2 new funding commitments: $27.1 million from the Wellcome Trust, and $4.5 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The Grand Challenges initiative is managed by global health experts at the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), the Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and CIHR. Additional proposed Grand Challenges projects are under review and may be awarded grants later this year.

The initiative was started by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2003, in association with the National Institutes of Health, with a $200 million grant to the FNIH to help apply innovation in science and technology to the greatest health problems in the third world. Though billions of dollars are spent every year for medical research, very little of it goes to help the sick and vulnerable in poor countries. The Grand Challenges Initiative aims to help them

According to Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “It’s shocking how little research is directed toward the diseases of the world’s poorest countries. By harnessing the world’s capacity for scientific innovation, I believe we can transform health in the developing world and save millions of lives.”

The 43 projects for which funds are granted come under the following heads, which have been shortlisted from over 1000 suggestions:


1. Childhood vaccines that do not reqire refrigeration
2. Studying immune system to develop develop new vaccines
3. New ways to prevent insect transmission of diseases
4. Nutritious staple crops to combat malnutrition
5. Ways to prevent drug resistance among germs
6. Methods to treat infections like tuberculosis
7. Diagnosing diseases in poor countries which do not have elaborate systems

“Science has revolutionized health in wealthy countries, while developing countries have been left to fight disease with only a handful of tools that are either grossly inadequate or far too expensive for widespread use,” said Dr. Nirmal Kumar Ganguly, a member of the Grand Challenges scientific board and director-general of the Indian Council for Medical 
Research. “The Grand Challenges initiative has provided the resources needed to bring together top scientists in both developed and developing countries to help address this imbalance.”

Said Nobel laureate Dr. Harold Varmus, chair of the international scientific board that guides the Grand Challenges initiative: “we were overwhelmed by the scientific community’s response to the Grand Challenges. Clearly, there’s tremendous untapped potential among the world’s scientists to address diseases of the developing world. Dr. Varmus is also president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and former director of the National Institutes of Health.

Research projects take on a wide range of developing world health challenges The 43 Grand Challenges projects will support cutting-edge research managed by teams of scientists working in partnership across disciplines, with researchers from the developing world and private industry as integral partners in many projects. Many of the initiatives include leaders from fields such as chemistry, engineering, statistics, and business, who have never before focused on global health. Some of the 43 projects delve on:

1. Heat-stable vaccines
2. Single-dose vaccines
3. Mosquito control
4. More nutritious staple crops
5. New HIV vaccine strategies
6. Diagnostics for the developing world

“The Grand Challenges initiative has brought together such a broad range of researchers, including leading scientists from disciplines that have never before focused on global health,” said Dr. Alan Bernstein, president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which contributed $4.5 million to the initiative, and a member of the Grand Challenges scientific board. “We’re particularly pleased that three Canadian-based teams are part of this initiative, contributing to this worldwide effort to harness science to improve global health.”

“The Grand Challenges projects are very ambitious, and the researchers are taking important risks that others have shied away from,” said Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health and a member of the Grand Challenges scientific board. “Many of these research projects will succeed, leading to breakthroughs with the potential to transform health in the world’s poorest countries.”

Projects designed to be practical and accessible in developing countries The project teams have developed global access plans to help ensure that their discoveries can lead to new vaccines, staple crops, medical procedures, and other tools that are practical for use in developing countries and accessible for those who need them most.

“Scientific advances are of little value unless they are accessible to the people who need them,” said Dr. Richard Klausner, executive director of the Global Health Program at the Gates Foundation and a member of the Grand Challenges scientific board. “Grand Challenges researchers will pursue affordable and practical health solutions that have access built in from the very start.”

BY OUR PHARMA CORRESPONDENT 

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