[ASC-media] La Trobe University Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for ground breaking research in Global Health and Development - from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

MediaWise mediawise at mediawise.net.au
Thu May 23 03:56:31 CEST 2013


La Trobe University Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for ground
breaking research in Global Health and Development

Melbourne,  ­ La Trobe University announced today that it is a Grand
Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation.
 
Dr Warwick Grant, Associate Professor in La Trobe University¹s Department of
Genetics will pursue an innovative global health and development research
project, titled river blindness (Project title: A small animal model to
validate onchocerca macrofilaricides).
 
Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore
ideas that can break the mould in how we solve persistent global health and
development challenges.  Dr Grant¹s project is one of the Grand Challenges
Explorations Round 10 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation.
  
To receive funding, Dr Grant and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round
10 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one
of four critical global heath and development topic areas that included
agriculture development, neglected tropical diseases and communications.
Applications for the next Round
<http://www.grandchallenges.org/GrantOpportunities/Pages/default.aspx>  will
be accepted starting September 2013. 
 
Over 120 million people are at risk from river blindness chronic
debilitating parasitic condition, termed a Œdisease of poverty¹ by the World
Health Organisation. Caused by a worm that is transmitted by a tiny
blood-sucking fly that bites humans, the adult worms live more than 15 years
in lumps under the skin and produce millions of baby worms that crawl around
in people¹s skin and eyes, causing skin disease and eventual blindness in
many people.
 
Dr Grant will screen candidate drugs to replace ivermectin, the drug that
has been used successfully in a mass distribution campaign by the WHO over
the past 25 years in Africa, preventing 40 million people from being
infected with the parasitic worm.
 
His Œproof of concept¹ research will focus on developing a new method for
evaluating the effectiveness of drugs that might be able to kill adults and
eradicate this disease.
 
About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, over 800 people in more
than 50 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants.  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 US$100,000 are awarded two times a year.
Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up
to US$1 million.
 
About La Trobe University
La Trobe is a globally recognised university that aims to address issues
fundamental to the future of human societies and their environments. We are
consistently ranked among the top 500 universities in the world and are
ranked in the global top 50 universities under 50 years old. The 2012
Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) rankings places us third in
Victoria for overall research quality and impact, number one in the nation
for research in Microbiology and equal top in other areas of research. Our
recently articulated ŒFuture Ready¹ objectives are set to elevate us even
further in Australian and world rankings.

Background
Dr Grant, Associate Professor in La Trobe University¹s Department of
Genetics, will use the Gates Foundation grant to screen candidate drugs to
replace ivermectin, the drug that has been used successfully in a mass
distribution campaign by the WHO over the past 25 years in Africa,
preventing 40 million people from being infected with the parasitic worm.
 
Ivermectin prevents disease by killing juvenile worms, but it does not kill
adult worms, and many rounds of treatment ivermectin treatment are required
before adult worms eventually die and transmission stops. It also cannot be
used in areas where there is potential co-infection with other parasites.
 
ŒGiven that the worms can live for more than 15 years in a person and that
although ivermectin can prevent disease it does not kill the adult worms
already in patients, new drugs that can kill the adult are crucial for
eventual eradication of the disease,¹ said Dr Grant.
 
His Œproof of concept¹ research will focus on developing a new method for
evaluating the effectiveness of drugs that might be able to kill adults and
eradicate this disease.
 
Currently there are no laboratory models available upon which to test new
drugs. Dr Grant intends to such a model in laboratory rats infected with a
similar parasite to determine levels of toxicity and effectiveness.
 
The search for new drugs is particularly urgent because of growing concern
about the potential of resistance to ivermectin.
 
ŒWithout new drugs that can kill adult worms, multiple treatments with
ivermectin need to keep working effectively for at least another ten to 15
years across the continent to allow enough time for the current generation
of adult worms to die and for parasite transmission to stop.¹ said Dr Grant.
 
ŒThis research, funded by the Gates Foundation, is a wonderful example of La
Trobe University engaging with global partners to make a difference in the
world,¹ said Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar.

-- 
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