Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Launches $100 Million Initiative to Spur Innovation in Global Health Research

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Oct. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced today that it is committing $100 million over five years to create a new fast-track grants initiative to support innovative global health research. The initiative's goal is to encourage scientists worldwide to explore creative, unorthodox ideas that could lead to major breakthroughs against some of the greatest health challenges facing poor countries.

The new initiative, called Grand Challenges Explorations, will support hundreds of early-stage research projects - many pursuing ideas that have never before been tested, and involving scientists from a wide range of disciplines. The Explorations initiative will focus on rapidly evaluating a large number of innovative ideas that could lead to new vaccines, diagnostics, drugs, and other technologies targeting diseases that claim millions of lives every year.

"The biggest 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 revolutionize the field of global health."

Dr. Yamada announced the Explorations initiative today at a meeting of 700 global health researchers held in Cape Town, South Africa. He was joined by the Rev. Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, and Graca Machel, chancellor of the University of Cape Town.

New Funding Expands Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative

The Explorations initiative is an expansion of the Gates Foundation's commitment to the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, which was launched in 2003 to accelerate the discovery of new technologies to improve global health. To date, the foundation has provided $450 million to support more than 40 projects on topics such as making childhood vaccines easier to use in poor countries, and creating new ways to control insects that spread disease.

"The scientific community has shown tremendous interest in the Grand Challenges initiative, and the projects funded so far are beginning to show important progress," said Dr. Harold Varmus, president and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and chair of the scientific board that oversees the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative. "The new Explorations initiative will help to further increase innovation in global health research."

The Explorations initiative will use a new approach to grantmaking that is a significant departure from the Gates Foundation's usual grantmaking process. Grant applicants will be asked to submit relatively short funding proposals, which will be reviewed on a fast-track schedule. Explorations grants will be approximately $100,000 each, and successful projects will be eligible for additional funding.

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

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. The first call for proposals will be announced in the first half of 2008, with the first grants expected to be announced by fall 2008. Application instructions will be posted on the Grand Challenges in Global Health website, www.gcgh.org.

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, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

CONTACT: Christopher Adasiewicz, of The Corkery Group, Inc. for The Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation, +1-212-584-5032, chris@corkerygroup.com

Web site: http://www.gcgh.org/

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