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Gates Foundation invests $100m in unorthodox research

Published on 10/10/07 at 03:46pm

Scientists with novel ideas for research into some of the world's biggest diseases are to be offered a new source of funding.

The Gates Foundation wants researchers to try creative and unorthodox ways to make breakthroughs in diseases like malaria and Aids, and has $100 million to back their search.

"The greatest 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 revolutionise the field of global health."

The Grand Challenges' Explorations project will offer 'fast-tracked' grants of $100,000 for early-stage research, with further funding for successful ideas for targeting some of the greatest health challenges facing poor countries.

It aims to quickly evaluate a large number of ideas and hopes some could lead to new vaccines, diagnostics, drugs or other technologies to target diseases that claim millions of lives every year.

The five-year project is an expansion of the Gates Foundation's Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, which was launched in 2003.

To date, it has given $450 million to more than 40 projects in areas such as making childhood vaccines easier to use in poor countries and creating new ways to control insects that spread disease.

The new Explorations project will speed up the Foundation's usual funding process by asking for grant applicants for relatively short funding proposals, which will then be reviewed to a fast-track schedule.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for people with exciting ideas to move their projects forward," Dr. Yamada explained.

Explorations grants will be solicited and awarded a number of times each year on a rolling basis, with each funding round addressing a few specific topics or themes.

The first call for proposals - and announcement of topics - will be in the first half of 2008, and the first grants are expected to be awarded by autumn 2008.

Application instructions and further details will be posted on the Grand Challenges in Global Health website (www.gcgh.org).

 

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