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Gates dangles $100-m ‘€˜carrot’€™ for scientists

Written by Health-e News

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has dangled a U$100-million carrot in front of scientists, especially those in Africa and Asia, who may have ‘€œcreative, unorthodox ideas’€ that could lead to breakthroughs against some of the greatest health challenges facing poor countries.

Speaking a few hours before the major announcement in Cape Town today (Tuesday), Dr Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’€™s Global Health Programme, said the new initiative, called Grand Challenges Explorations, would support hundreds of early-stage research projects.

Many are pursuing ideas that have never before been tested, and involving scientists from a wide range of disciplines. Each scientist would receive U$100 000.

‘€œWe want to reach out to scientists from all over the world, especially those in Africa and Asia. We know there is a storehouse of knowledge and talent,’€ said Yamada.

Scientists, who need not have specific degrees or qualifications, will be asked to submit short applications that will be rapidly evaluated in the hope that it could lead to new vaccines, diagnostics, drugs and other technologies targeting diseases that claim millions of live every year.

‘€œWe understand that most of the projects that we end up supporting may not be successful, but we hope there will be some that will come up with transformative ideas,’€ Yamada said.

He said the Gates Foundation was especially keen to focus on complex areas such as HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria, maternal health, malnutrition and infant mortality.

The Foundation would be offering continuous support to those projects showing great promise.

Yamada agreed that the announcement would be welcomed by scientists who are often overwhelmed and demoralized by the tough process of applying for the more traditional grants from big research institutions where they are expected to submit 40-page applications with pre-liminary data included, that in itself needs funding before it can be generated.

Yamada announced the initiative at the overlap of two meetings in Cape Town on Tuesday ‘€“ 300 scientists meeting at the Grand Challenges for Health conference and 400 scientists (including 150 from Africa) meeting at the Keystone Conference on Vaccines. Yamada’€™s announcement was preceded by speeches from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mrs Graca Machel.

The call for proposals will go out early next year with the first grants expected to be announced three months later.

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

Application instructions will be posted on the Grand Challenges in Global Health website www.gcgh.org. ‘€“ Health-e News Service

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Health-e News

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