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Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9: Suspending Disbelief

  • Ling Wong, Mar 12, 2012

Just imagine a world where you can use dirt to power cell phones, or milk from wallabies to improve nutrition in low birth weight babies. As an optimist, I believe that some of these great ideas could change the world. These are just a few of the innovative ideas we have funded through the Grand Challenges Explorations, a program focused on "suspending disbelief."

To kick off 2012, we are excited to announce the next Round of Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) opportunities to see your innovative ideas. Round 9 is the broadest call for proposals to date, with topics that span the full Research & Development spectrum of global health and development, from early-stage drug discovery and research in agriculture, to the downstream stages of how to deliver vaccines, and even new ways to tell stories about global aid.

Here is a little bit more about each topic:

Early-stage discovery: "New Approaches for the Interrogation of Anti-Malarial Compounds"
The challenge is to develop the next generation of malaria drugs. There are promising leads, but we lack the tools to analyze, characterize, and prioritize anti-malarial compounds effectively. We are looking for the innovative ideas on how to test these leads.

Vaccine delivery: "Design New Approaches to Optimize Immunization Systems"
Immunization is one of the world's most cost-effective health interventions. However, each year approximately 25 million infants are not fully vaccinated, and at least 2.4 million children die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Since the mid-1970s, most countries have been using the same standard package of six vaccines—measles, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), tuberculosis, and polio—in their national immunization schedule. Throughout the next decade, we will have opportunities to introduce many new lifesaving vaccines. The introduction of these new vaccines brings new challenges—both in delivering these vaccines and in ensuring immunization programs reach new target populations. We need to find ways to improve and optimize the performance of immunization logistics and supply systems in low-resource settings. We are looking for new ideas from the broader community to help us get these vaccines to where they need to be.

Nexus of biomedicine, engineering, and agriculture: "Protect Crop Plants from Biotic Stresses from Field to Market"
This topic also debuted in Round 8, and successfully solicited transformative solutions to the pest and pathogen pressures faced by smallholder farmers in developing countries. In its Round 9 return, we again hope to engage the broader biology and engineering communities to generate ideas that will revolutionize current approaches to crop protection that dramatically reduce cost and/or increase efficiency.

Everything in between: "Explore New Solutions in Global Health Priority Areas"
We wish to complement our more specific Round 9 topics by casting a wide net for ideas. This broad call for proposals seeks to attract ideas that are at the intersection of past GCE topics, engage researchers who aren't already working on global health issues, or apply existent knowledge or technologies from developed world health concerns (e.g., cancer research) toward our global health priorities.

Sharing these stories in new ways: "The Challenge: Aid Is Working. Tell the World".
It's not enough to invest in early-stage research and downstream delivery of solutions; we must also find groundbreaking ways to gather and share stories of aid working well. We must bring the data behind those stories to life. And we must do it on a global scale, making it relevant to audiences who are wrestling with tough economic decisions at home.

The goal of this Communications topic is to solicit new approaches to communications that motivate the public in wealthy countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany to change their minds about aid, and take actions to demonstrate their support. We must do a better job of explaining the "how" and the "what" (How exactly does aid work? Where does the money go? How is it used? What impact does it have on communities?).

I am really excited about this round of Grand Challenges Explorations because there is such a diverse set of new opportunities. I hope you will join us in "suspending disbelief" and share your great ideas.

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit www.grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.
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