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.
Bart Faber of the Biomedical Primate Research Centre in the Netherlands will attempt to create a malaria vaccine using artificial merozoites, which are the blood stage form of the disease. Faber will engineer yeast cells to present multiple surface proteins and measure subsequent antibody production. If successful, this yeast vaccine could be easy to produce and easily transported and stored at ambient temperatures.
Daniel Stein and Phillip DeShong of the University of Maryland in the U.S. will construct and test a vaccine platform that utilizes low-cost, stable surfactant vesicles to deliver antigens for a sustained mucosal immune response. If successful, the platform could be used to develop low-cost vaccines for bacterial infections where carbohydrates form the basis of protective immunity, such as bacterial pneumonia and diarrheal diseases.
Miguel Prudencio of Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Portugal will test the theory that modified live rodent malaria parasites (P. berghei) can be used in a vaccine to elicit a strong immune response in humans without being able to infect human red blood cells and cause illness. This was successfully tested in Phase I, and they also established that the human antigens carried by the parasites could induce a selective immune response in mice. In Phase II, they will test their vaccine in Phase I/IIa human trials and evaluate it for safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity. They will also extend their approach to another human malaria parasite P. vivax, and begin optimizing methods for large-scale vaccine production.
Guozhi Wang of the National Institute for Control Pharmaceutical & Biological Products in China will assess the effectiveness of a new inexpensive skin test that can differentiate between true Tuberculosis infection and the markers of the BCG vaccination. Because the current TB screening protocol is not sensitive enough to tell the difference, this new test could lead to earlier and better treatment options for those with early-stage infections.
Sumi Biswas of the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford in the United Kingdom will test three components from the mosquito's innate signaling pathways for possible use in a malaria vaccine. Biswas will test whether immunizing mammal hosts with these components can induce strong antibodies, which can be passed along to mosquitoes to enhance the insect's innate immune response, thus leading to the death of the malaria parasite in the vector.
Michael Chan of the Ohio State Research Foundation in the U.S. will develop an engineered strain of bacteria used to ferment beans in traditional Asian and African diets, to display an antigen from the Tuberculosis bacterium. The engineered bacillus will then be used to make the traditional Asian dish natto, which can serve as a kind of oral vaccine to elicit a strong immune response. If successful, this strategy can be used to introduce a variety of disease antigens through culturally accepted foods.
David Herrin and colleagues at the University of Texas propose to develop a green-algal food source for mosquito larvae into a biological control agent by engineering their chloroplasts to produce larvacidal proteins. The chloroplast genome has significant advantages for genetic modification, including stability and containment.
Yutaka Terao of the Osaka University in Japan will construct and test synthetic immunoglobulin derived from the human immune system. If successful, these molecules could provide protection against a broad range of bacteria, including multiple-antibiotic resistant pathogens.
Ali Salanti of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark will develop and test a vaccine combining a new placental malaria vaccine candidate with the cervical cancer vaccine, with the potential of inducing a strong protective response against both diseases simultaneously. This project's Phase I research demonstrated that a combinatorial HPV and placental malaria vaccine induced highly functioning antibodies relevant to both diseases. In Phase II Salanti will further optimize the immune response to the combinatorial vaccine and investigate the scalability and efficient production of such a vaccine for the developing world.
Eamonn Keogh of the University of California- Riverside proposes to develop low cost hardware that can automatically count mosquitoes as they fly past a sensor. Accurate counts of the sex/species of mosquitoes are critical for planning intervention and control strategies to reduce malaria disease transmission.