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Surveillance Tools, Diagnostics and an Artificial Diet to Support New Approaches to Vector Control (Round 15)



These are demanding yet changing times in the world of mosquito control. The rising challenge of insecticide resistance has led to the failure of many control programs as traditional tools have been pushed to their limits. The need for control of insects that carry human disease is now more pertinent than ever. Increases in urbanization and globalization mean that these pests are more readily traversing the globe on airlines and in cargo, and mosquito-borne disease is reaching new geographies and ecologies. Conversely, it is also an exciting era for entomological research as new approaches to suppress these insect populations are being actively developed that use new molecular tools, genes that hamper disease transmission, and population replacement strategies. As these new technologies reach the point of being ready to leave the laboratory, there is a critical need to develop additional tools to support proof of concept and transition to operational control. 

In the case of Aedes and Anopheles mosquitoes (those that carry malaria, dengue and chikungunya), new approaches that are proven in the lab need to scale up production and they need to be monitored in proof of concept studies. New technologies are required to support these next steps. Monitoring of mosquito populations and of infection status of caught insects and facilitating mass rearing are all areas where gaps exist that need to be closed.

The Challenge:

This call for proposals is therefore divided into three sections of which applicants can address as few or as many as they can tackle within the scope of an 18-month duration, $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations award. 

Applicants MUST incorporate into their proposal a plan for proof of the efficacy of the developed technology.

  1. Novel surveillance techniques for mosquito vectors 
    To support innovative approaches to vector control and monitor the success of proof of concept/roll-out trials, we need to be able to quantitatively measure mosquito populations in the field. To that end, we are seeking adult mosquito traps meeting the criteria below: 
    • Low-cost and does not require mains supply power.
    • Enables collection without discrimination of all physiological states of females (unfed/fed/gravid) as well as males, in order to reflect the population structure in any given study site.
    • Must not affect the captured adult mosquitoes in a way that would hinder downstream molecular diagnostic procedures.
    • Should be easily transported and set (e.g. stackable and compact) and inexpensive to construct.
  2. Diagnostic tests for bacterial symbionts/arboviruses within caught material 
    In order to get a true picture of transmission dynamics, we need to understand the frequency of infection in wild mosquito populations. With the Foundation’s commitment to new technologies, including the bacterial symbiont Wolbachia being used in population replacement strategies, a research gap exists in monitoring trapped material for infection. For a diagnostic test to be successful, it must meet the criteria below: 
    • Simple field-based diagnostic tests for detecting Wolbachia, malaria, dengue, and/or chikungunya viruses in mosquitoes captured in field traps.
    • Sensitive enough to detect infection in mosquitoes that have been left dead for at least one week in traps deployed in the field.
    • Inexpensive and not requiring overly specialized equipment, and ideally greater than 95% accurate.
  3. An artificial diet to replace blood feeding in the laboratory setting 
    Maintenance of insect colonies for research has always been challenging. Until now, solutions have largely been a mix of human volunteers, membrane systems, or sourcing animals appropriate to local legislation. All of these feeding methods are difficult to sustain and come with complications. Many new technologies in mosquito control, especially those centered on replacement strategies, require mass rearing capability in which large numbers, often many millions of mosquitoes, are produced in a factory-like setting. Development of an artificial diet for replacement of blood feeding must: 
    • Provide appropriate nutrition to blood-feeding females for egg development.
    • Not impact egg hatch rate, fecundity, longevity, or general health of the female or her offspring.
    • Be easy to make in field laboratory settings or easily and inexpensively shipped in quantity globally without need for a time-sensitive cold supply chain.
    • Be appropriate for use in the mass rearing context as well as for small-scale, day-to-day insectary maintenance use.

As well as the formulation of an appropriate diet for Aedes/Anopheles mosquitoes, applicants should consider the delivery platform for feeding mosquitoes in the insectary, either using their own novel but replicable methods or recognized methods or technologies that are already on the market. 

What we are looking for:

We seek proposals that address one or multiple of the three challenges described above. A successful proposal will include the following: 

  • Clear ability to prove the effectiveness of the developed tool with supporting data.
  • Tools that are appropriate to use in the field; consideration should be paid to supply chain issues in low- to middle-income countries where vector-borne disease is prevalent.
  • Tools and technologies should ideally be for use or for supply at low cost to support operational programs going forward.
  • Preference will be given to trapping technologies and diet developed for Aedes/Anopheles mosquito species and for diagnostics for those infections listed in the second challenge above.

What we will not consider funding:

  • Proposals that do not include a plan for how to measure success.
  • Diagnostic tools developed for diseases other than those listed under this challenge.
  • Novel vector control methods, including interventions based on genetic modification and population replacement strategies.
  • Technologies not appropriate to the field laboratory or insectary setting.
  • Ideas that cannot be developed within the scope of a Grand Challenges Explorations phase I award ($100,000 over 18 months).
  • Solely infrastructure or capacity-building initiatives.
  • Basic research without clear relevance to the goals of this topic.

Great ideas come from everywhere.

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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.