Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems. Each initiative is an experiment in the use of challenges to focus innovation on making an impact. Individual challenges address some of the same problems, but from differing perspectives.
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Dr. Baltimore’s team is exploring a new way of stimulating the immune system to fight infectious diseases, focusing on HIV. The premise of this project is that for some infections, including HIV, the immune system’s natural responses are inherently inadequate, and the traditional approach of using vaccines to stimulate and boost these responses is likely to be ineffective. As an alternative, Dr. Baltimore and his colleagues propose to "engineer immunity," that is, use genetic engineering methods to produce immune cells that will make specific antibodies to fight off infection. Baltimore (Grand Challenges in Global Health: 2005-2015 retrospective)
People infected with many serious illnesses, including tuberculosis and hepatitis C, may show no symptoms of disease for long periods of time. These inactive, or "latent," infections, however, can develop into active disease without warning, and also can be passed on to others. New approaches that focus on controlling or stimulating the immune system to cure latent infections or prevent them from causing disease have the potential to significantly reduce illness, death, and disease transmission. Dr. Ahmed and his team are working to create safe and effective immunological therapies for chronic hepatitis C infection and other viral infections such as HIV by developing methods to reactivate "exhausted" immune cells that are thought be unable to clear the infection.
Each year, about a half-million women, 80 percent of them living in low-income countries, develop cancer of the cervix. The disease kills 250,000 women annually, and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women living in less developed countries. Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. Dr. Garcea's team is working to develop an inexpensive therapeutic vaccine against HPV that will not only protect people from developing new infections, but could potentially trigger an immune system response to cure those who are already infected.
To stop the spread of tuberculosis, scientists are working to develop methods that prevent new infections and also eliminate infection in the huge reservoir of people who already are infected with MTB. New approaches that focus on controlling or stimulating the immune system to cure latent infections or prevent MTB from causing disease have the potential to significantly reduce illness, death, and disease transmission. Dr. Andersen's is leading a collaborative team of international researchers who are studying Mycobacterium tuberculosis to identify the mechanisms that, in some people, allow it to escape natural immune system responses. The project's ultimate goal is to develop vaccines that target latent TB, either before or after an individual is infected.