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July 03, 2005

Gates Foundation Awards Include Disease-fighting Projects

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded US$450 million last week to a variety of medical researchers, winners in the foundation's Grand Challenges in Global Health competition. Nearly a half-billion dollars in grants were awarded for 43 novel, unusual medical ideas, many of which focus on improving health treatment for the poor.'s highlights included the following:
One team, led by Abraham Sonenshein from Tufts University School of Medicine in the U.S., has been awarded $5m for research on encasing vaccines in harmless bacteria that have temperature resistant properties. It could mean vaccines being produced in powdered form in a bag, ready to mix with water and swallow and most children would be grateful to avoid the needle.

The ideas of Lorne Babiuk from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, who gets $5.6m to work on reducing the three whooping cough vaccines to one, which would be delivered via the mucosal lining of the nose or mouth, also has universal appeal.

Paul Yager and team from the University of Washington, will get $15.4m to develop a test kit; It will be a small card, about the size of a credit card, containing all the necessary reagents to test a blood sample for a range of diseases, such as bacterial infections, malnutrition and HIV.

It would be inserted into a hand-held computer and read in about 10 minutes.

British scientist Robin Shattock, from St George's Medical School, London, gets $19.7m to work on a vaccine for HIV that will stimulate the immune system's fight against the virus in the lining of the vagina. They think they can devise a time-release vaccine that will be delivered through a low-cost gel or silicone ring.

A further $10m goes to Adrian Hill's team at Oxford University, which will work on ways of stimulating the immune system that could be used in developing vaccines for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.


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