Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Funds Bold Ideas Including Empty Virus Shells to Improve Polio Immunity, Dirt-Charged Cell Phones, and Fertilizer Pellets that Reduce Health Risks

By Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, PRNE
Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grand Challenges Explorations winners in 25 countries aim to transform global health and development

SEATTLE, April 28, 2011 - The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced 88 new winners of
US$100,000 each to support innovative research that has the potential to
dramatically improve lives in some of the world's poorest countries. The
funding, made possible through the Grand Challenges Exploration (GCE)
program, will enable researchers worldwide to test unorthodox ideas that
address persistent health and development challenges.

"One bold idea is all it takes to catalyze new approaches to global
health and development," said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of Global Health at
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Despite the progress in global health
and development, we vitally need creative ideas to discover and deliver
life-saving vaccines, eradicate the next disease or slow the spread of
preventable diseases," he continued.

GCE asked researchers to tackle problems such as speeding progress toward
assuring polio eradication; leveraging cell phones for global health
solutions to improve access to life-saving vaccines; using new technologies
to improve maternal and newborn health; finding ways to eliminate all
reservoirs of HIV from a patient; and, creating next generation sanitation
technologies to help reduce the burden of diarrheal disease.

"GCE winners are expanding the pipeline of ideas to address serious
global health and development challenges where creative thinking is most
urgently needed. This effort is critical if we are to spur on new discoveries
that ultimately could save millions more lives," said Chris Wilson, director
of Global Health Discovery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Winners were selected from over 2,500 proposals and approximately 100
countries. They represent a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines,
including health researchers, computer and electronic engineers, and
entrepreneurs. Research areas for Round 6 of GCE included:

    - The Poliovirus Endgame: Creating Ways to Accelerate, Sustain and
      Monitor Eradication
    - Creating the Next Generation of Sanitation Technologies
    - Designing New Approaches to Cure HIV Infection
    - Creating Low-Cost Cell Phone-Based Applications for Priority Global
      Health Conditions
    - Creating New Technologies to Improve the Health of Mothers and

GCE continues its search for innovative ideas from all over the world,
using a quick and easy grant-making selection process. Applications for the
next round are being accepted through May 19, 2011. Click here
for Round 7 topics and application instructions.

Winning Round 6 research proposals include:

Strategies to accelerate the end of polio and sustain eradication:

    - James Flanegan of the University of Florida, U.S., will explore
      developing a poliovirus vaccine composed of virus capsids - the protein
      shell of the virus - that look like the virus but are not infectious.
    - Simon Carding of the University of East Anglia, UK, will test whether
      live gut bacteria can generate immunity by delivering poliovirus
      antigens to the intestinal mucosa.
    - Jacob John of Christian Medical College in India will study the effect
      of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) on gut immunity in Indian
      children previously given the oral polio vaccine (OPV). Boosting
      immunity with IPV could result in strategies for accelerating polio

New life-saving vaccines and other tools:

    - Erez Lieberman-Aiden and his team at Harvard University, U.S., propose
      to develop a low-cost microbial fuel cell (MFC) from naturally
      occurring soil microbes which could be used to recharge a cell phone.
      These fuel cells do not require any sophisticated materials to build,
      and can be easily assembled using locally available materials.
    - Marc-Andre Langlois of the University of Ottawa, Canada, will develop
      small molecules that combine together to form a toxic compound that
      specifically eliminates only HIV-infected cells. If successful, it
      could lead to a cure for HIV.

Innovative developments for next generation sanitation technologies:

    - Guillermo Bazan of the University of California, Santa Barbara in the
      U.S. will explore an innovative way to break down human waste and
      convert the energy into electricity and heat.
    - Virginia Gardiner of Loowatt Ltd. in the United Kingdom will develop a
      waterless toilet that seals waste into a portable cartridge within
      biodegradable film, for local anaerobic digestion. The digester
      produces fuel and fertilizer, creating local waste treatment economies.
    - Olufunke Cofie of the International Water Management Institute in Ghana
      will develop fertilizer pellets made from treated human waste for
      market sale to increase agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa
      and reduce health risks from untreated waste.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations ( is a
US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Launched in 2008, Grand Challenge Explorations grants have already been
awarded to nearly 500 researchers from over 40 countries. The grant program
is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The
initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short
two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants
of $100,000 are awarded twice a year. Successful projects have the
opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In
developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them
the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the
United States
, it seeks to ensure that all people-especially those with the
fewest resources-have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in
school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO
Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill
and Melinda Gates
and Warren Buffett. Learn more at

For high-resolution still photography and information about the
foundation's work, please visit:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, +1-206-709-3400 or media at

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