ASU's Curtiss awarded $14.8M from Gates Foundation to develop new pneumonia vaccine for newborns

06/28/05

Funds target disease in world's poorest nations

TEMPE, Ariz The Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, a major effort to achieve scientific breakthroughs against diseases that kill millions of people each year in the world's poorest countries, today offered 43 grants totaling $436.6 million for a broad range of innovative research projects involving scientists in 33 countries. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to create "deliverable technologies" health tools that are not only effective, but also inexpensive to produce, easy to distribute, and simple to use in developing countries.

The Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative is supported by a $450 million commitment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as two new funding commitments: $27.1 million from the Wellcome Trust, and $4.5 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The 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.

Among the recipients is ASU's Roy Curtiss, co-director of the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology in the Biodesign Institute at ASU and a professor in the School of Life Sciences.

Curtiss will lead an international group of researchers in the U.S., Australia, and South Korea in order to improve a vaccine against bacterial pneumonia so it requires only a single dose. The current vaccine requires four injections given at specific intervals.

The project will formulate the vaccine with a safe, low-cost additive derived from weakened Salmonella bacteria, which early studies suggest can enhance a vaccine's ability to stimulate a potent immune response. Curtiss' team will also work to design the vaccine so that it can be given orally; oral delivery is less dependent on sterile conditions than injections and requires less training to administer. If effective, this technology has the potential to be used for a range of existing and new vaccines.

The Grand Challenges initiative was launched by the Gates Foundation in 2003, in partnership 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 of the developing world.

Of the billions spent each year on research into life-saving medicines, only a small fraction is focused on discovering and developing new tools to fight the diseases that cause millions of deaths each year in developing countries.

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

Each of the 43 projects seeks to tackle one of 14 major scientific challenges that, if solved, could lead to important advances in preventing, treating, and curing diseases of the developing world.

"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."

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."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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