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Mobile Money to Mosquitoes: Great Ideas from Grand Challenges Explorations Round 15

  • Steven Buchsbaum, Rebekah Neal, Nov 12, 2015

Today, we are pleased to announce the Phase I winners from the 15th round of Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE). The 59 winners from 16 countries were selected in a blinded and champion-based review process from an applicant pool of over 1,100 applicants from 91 countries. The awarded projects were selected for their creative and innovative approach and clear relevance to the challenge.

Twice a year, GCE publishes requests for proposals on a range of topics in global health and development, focusing on specific areas that our foundation teams and partners have identified as needing an influx of new ideas to defeat old problems. In Round 15, new topics included Addressing Newborn and Infant Gut Health Through Bacteriophage-Mediated Microbiome Engineering, designed to stimulate new ideas for understanding gut function and its role in stunting, as well as Explore New Ways to Measure Delivery and Use of Digital Financial Services Data, with the goal of better understanding the barriers to uptake of digital financial services among the world’s poor.

We typically pose challenges twice, providing an opportunity to refocus or adapt the call language to include new information for the second round. Some of the winners we are announcing today applied to challenges we re-introduced, some with minimal and others with major changes to content and focus. These topics were New Ways to Reduce Childhood Pneumonia Deaths Through Delivery of Timely Effective Treatment, Surveillance Tools, Diagnostics and an Artificial Diet to Support New Approaches to Vector Control, New Approaches for Addressing Outdoor/Residual Malaria Transmission, Enable Merchant Acceptance of Mobile Money Payments.

A few examples of the great ideas funded at Phase I are listed below. You can view the full list here. These projects have received $100,000 USD and 18 months to achieve proof of concept with their idea. Successful projects may apply for up to $1 million USD over two years to continue to refine and test their ideas.

  • Anika Kinkhabwala of EpiBiome in the U.S. will use bacteriophage that target virulence structures on pathogenic bacteria such as enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC). This will test the hypothesis that bacteria would need to mutate their virulence structures to avoid bacteriophage predation, resulting in decreased virulence factors and making them less harmful to their human hosts.
  • Chris Locke of Caribou Digital (UK) Ltd. in the United Kingdom will develop applications for smart phone users in developing countries to allow them to provide anonymous data to donors and governments for use in understanding phone-based activities, including digital financial transactions.
  • Pavan Dadlani of Phillips Research in The Netherlands will create a handheld three-dimensional scanner that can automatically analyze body shape and assess malnutrition in young children, a strong risk factor for mortality associated with a variety of common diseases.
  • Heverton Dutra of Centro de Pesquisas René Rachou, FIOCRUZ in Brazil will develop an artificial diet based on protein and fat to replace the animal blood currently used to feed mosquitoes bred in large numbers for use in insect replacement technologies, such as those infected with the Wolbachia bacteria.


  • Brandyce St. Laurent of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. will test whether tents baited with cows, a preferred feeding source for Anopheles mosquitos, can be used to monitor and control disease-causing mosquitoes in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
  • Geraldine O’Keeffe of Software Group KE Ltd. in Kenya will work to standardize mobile money acceptance by developing a smartphone application that serves as a single system for smaller merchants to receive mobile money from customers with different providers.

Please join us in congratulating the 59 GCE Phase I winners and wishing them the best of luck in pursuing their great ideas!


Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 1,160 projects in more than 60 countries have received GCE grants. The program is open to anyone from any discipline or organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded twice a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to $1 million. Sign up here to receive updates and announcements of open challenges.

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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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