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Blog Post

Great Ideas from the Next Round of Grand Challenges Explorations

  • Steven Buchsbaum, Rebekah Neal, May 29, 2018

Almost ten years into this Grand Challenges Explorations experiment, we find there are still new problems to solve and great ideas out there to solve them. In October, we posed three challenges explaining three big problems that remain to be solved, and today we announce funding for 35 potential new solutions posed by researchers in 17 countries. With GCE, we expect a high rate of failure, since we seek to fund high risk, high reward projects that address critical challenges in global health and development. So, while many of these project may ultimately fail, we only need a handful to succeed to dramatically change and improve lives. Even if the solutions are not among the projects we are announcing today, we believe that by posing the questions in the first place, the community will now be talking about the problems, and bright minds around the world may be thinking of possible new solutions.

Without further pre-amble, we invite you to read about a few of the projects in this round below. We encourage you to visit grandchallenges.org to read more about each of these projects and others, see new challenges as they become available from the Grand Challenges network, and join the community of innovators thinking up bold solutions to key challenges in global health and development.

The challenge Healthy Minds for Adolescent Mothers: Achieving Healthy Outcomes for the Family, in partnership with Grand Challenges Canada, sought bold ideas to meet the mental health needs of the most vulnerable young mothers. Examples of the bold ideas funded under this challenge include:

  • Estelle Sidze of African Population and Health Research Centre in Kenya will work with adolescent mothers in Nairobi slums to develop a toolkit of information, skills, and coping mechanisms, to protect their mental health during pregnancy and early motherhood.
  • Tatiana Salisbury of King’s College London in the United Kingdom along with colleagues at the Royal College of Art in the United Kingdom and the Manhiça Health Research Centre in Mozambique will develop a strategy to improve the mental health of young mothers in Mozambique by adapting existing technology-based and group-based methods to teach them life skills such as parenting and social skills.

The challenge Novel Approaches for Improving Timeliness of Routine Immunization Birthdose and Healthcare Worker Skill in Low-Resource Settings sought new solutions around timeliness for vaccines – ensuring babies get the vaccines they need when they need them - but also considered that the community health care workers tasked with administering those vaccines might need new training beyond the existing checklist models. Examples of the potential new solutions funded under this challenge include:

  • Pushpendra Singh of IIIT Delhi in India will develop interactive training and mentoring sessions for community health workers in India (ASHAs) using mobile phones and interactive voice response systems so they can provide better public healthcare in rural communities.
  • Tara Hopkins of Mali Health in the U.S. will develop methods to improve vaccination coverage in rural communities in southern Mali by engaging community health workers together with traditional birth attendants who are present during home births.

The challenge Innovations for Integrated Diagnostics Systems sought creative ideas around centralized laboratory systems for diagnostic services in low resources areas, specifically looking for both technical solutions such as new sample collection or transportation methods, as well as process innovations to improve the functioning of existing networks and systems.

  • Amadou Alpha Sall of Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal will add quantum dots to liquid patient samples to improve results tracking and facilitate storage of diverse types of information relevant for diagnostics and research that can be retrieved in real-time.
  • William Grover of the University of California, Riverside, in the U.S. will create a medical record that is permanently attached to its human sample using micron-sized microtransponder chips added to the samples during collection.

We wish this round of new awardees the best of luck as they pursue their big ideas, and we invite everyone to visit grandchallenges.org to read more about the many solutions we did not have the time and space to highlight here. We know you will be inspired by the creativity of these innovators and their commitment to saving and improving lives.

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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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