Thursday, Sept 17th, 2009
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has issued more than $8 million in grants to stimulate unconventional research, in the hopes of producing medical breakthroughs unlikely to emerge through traditional research channels.
In contrast to most grants, which require applicants to provide lengthy and detailed information, the Gates Foundation required applicants to submit only a two-page application, with no preliminary data needed. Eighty-one recipients were selected for starting grants of $100,000 each, out of more than 3,000 proposals. Recipients who show success in preliminary studies may receive follow-up grants of $1 million.
Tachi Yamada, president of the foundation’s global health program, said that he will not be disappointed if 90 percent of the projects fail.
“The point is that where there are currently no solutions, we must work hard to find new solutions,” he said. “We really believe that true innovation is needed. Some of the ideas might seem crazy, but there is a fine line between crazy and absolutely novel.”
Grant recipients include teams working to detect malaria infection with a handheld, magnetic device; to create a genetic library of all possible HIV mutations; to research the body’s ability to carry pneumonia bacteria without becoming ill, in hopes of developing an inhaled vaccine; to give cows a “vaccine” that causes mosquitoes biting them to die or become sterile; to develop nanoparticles that attach to tuberculosis-infected cells and release antibiotics over time; to test whether vaccines could be delivered via proteins produced by insect viruses; to infect malaria mosquitoes with a fungus that makes it hard for them to smell potential prey; to create antibodies that attack the receptor proteins of immune cells, thus blocking HIV from infecting the cells; and to develop a tomato that can be eaten to receive a dose of antiviral drugs.
“Some things require a revolution, rather than an evolution, in thinking,” Yamada said. “The problem is we can be locked into an orthodoxy of thinking that shackles us and prevents us from thinking in novel ways.”
This article was posted: Friday, September 18, 2009 at 4:40 am