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Fourteen Grand Challenges in Global Health announced

  October, 20 2003 14:03
your information resource in human molecular genetics
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 17--The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced the first 14 scientific challenges that will be the focus of the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative. As of today, the FNIH seeks grant proposals for research on these critical scientific and technological problems that, if solved, could lead to important advances against diseases of the developing world.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $200 million grant to the FNIH in January to establish and administer the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative in partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As a partner in this new initiative, the NIH will identify activities that are appropriate for government funding. Possibilities include the parallel release of announcements to fund joint or associated projects, funding shared resources and training, and announcing funding opportunities for follow-up grants that complement the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative.

The intent of the initiative is to engage creative minds from across the world and the breadth of scientific and technology communities, including those who have not traditionally engaged in global health research, to partner in developing solutions to the stated challenges.

"It is high time that the world's scientific community, which has contributed so much to the medical progress achieved in the last century, turns its creative attention to solving the enormous health problems of the developing world," said Dr. Richard Klausner, executive director of the global health program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The initiative is guided by an international scientific board chaired by Nobel laureate Harold Varmus, M.D., president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and former Director of the NIH. The scientific board developed the 14 challenges from more than 1,000 ideas submitted by scientists in 75 countries. Additional challenges for the initiative may be announced in the future.

"These are all very significant and difficult scientific problems. If we could solve any one of these grand challenges the impact on health in the developing world could be dramatic, and we hope to solve several in the course of this new initiative," Dr. Varmus said.

"Health problems of this magnitude demand that we bring our collective knowledge and experience together to effect real advances that will make a positive difference in people's lives throughout the world," Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health, said. "It is clear that this initiative is moving forward with alacrity and focus."

"These grand challenges capture the tremendous potential for bright, creative scientists to make a difference in the lives of billions of people around the globe," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "By focusing resources and research on developing practical solutions to these challenges, we are creating a real opportunity to dramatically improve the health and well-being of people throughout the developing world."

The challenges announced today, which are associated with seven broad goals, are:

Improve childhood vaccines:

1. Create effective single-dose vaccines that can be used soon after birth.
2. Prepare vaccines that do not require refrigeration.
3. Develop needle-free delivery systems for vaccines.

Create new vaccines:

4. Devise reliable tests in model systems to evaluate live attenuated vaccines.
5. Solve how to design antigens for effective, protective immunity.
6. Learn which immunological responses provide protective immunity.

Control insects that transmit agents of disease:

7. Develop a genetic strategy to deplete or incapacitate a disease-transmitting insect population.
8. Develop a chemical strategy to deplete or incapacitate a disease-transmitting insect population.

Improve nutrition to promote health:

9. Create a full range of optimal, bioavailable nutrients in a single staple plant species.

Improve drug treatment of infectious diseases:

10. Discover drugs and delivery systems that minimize the likelihood of drug resistant micro-organisms.

Cure latent and chronic infections:

11. Create therapies that can cure latent infections.
12. Create immunological methods that can cure chronic infections.

Measure disease and health status accurately and economically in developing countries:

13. Develop technologies that permit quantitative assessment of population health status.
14. Develop technologies that allow assessment of individuals for multiple conditions or pathogens at point- of-care.

The Grand Challenges initiative is based on the recognition that poor health is one of the greatest impediments to international development. Although the scientific community has the resources and brainpower to develop new, innovative, and more affordable solutions to health problems in developing countries, only a small fraction of existing biomedical research efforts are directed toward health problems that disproportionately affect the two billion poorest people on earth. To date, there has been no systematic effort to identify the most critical scientific challenges in global health and direct funds to solve them. By directing substantial and carefully targeted resources toward key health-related research questions pertinent to developing countries, the Grand Challenges initiative is intended to attract talented investigators to address these issues and significantly accelerate the development of affordable, practical solutions.

An article in the October 17 issue of Science by Varmus et al. describes the deliberations of the international scientific board, a 20-member panel of scientists and public health experts from 13 countries, including several from the developing world, which formulated the first 14 Grand Challenges (visit: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/302/5644/398.). According to the article, questions used to evaluate each proposed Grand Challenge included: Does the proposal describe a difficult and discrete roadblock to progress? What are the possible impacts on various diseases if the challenge is successfully met? Will envisioned advances be suitable for implementation in poorer parts of the world? The authors note that none of the goals or Grand Challenges addresses a single disease, in keeping with the initiative's goal to "identify underlying scientific and technical problems that impede progress against multiple disorders."

The FNIH now seeks grant proposals from the international scientific community for research on the 14 Grand Challenges. Grants will be awarded for up to a total of $20 million for a maximum five-year period. Applications are invited from every part of the world, from single or multiple institutions, both non-profit and for profit. To apply for a research grant, investigators must first submit a letter of intent; those that show the most promising and innovative research approaches will be invited to submit a formal grant proposal.

For more detailed information on the Grand Challenges initiative, including the full texts of the Grand Challenges and instructions on the grant submission process, visit http://www.grandchallengesgh.org.


The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health was established by the United States Congress to support the mission of the National Institutes of Health – improving health through scientific discovery. The Foundation identifies and develops opportunities for innovative public-private partnerships involving industry, academia, and the philanthropic community. A non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation, the Foundation raises private-sector funds for a broad portfolio of unique programs that complement and enhance NIH priorities and activities. The Foundation's Web site address is http://www.fnih.org.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is building upon the unprecedented opportunities of the 21st century to improve equity in global health and learning. Led by Bill Gates' father, William H. Gates, Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based foundation has an endowment of approximately $25 billion. The Foundation's Web site address is http://www.gatesfoundation.org/.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research, helping to lead the way toward important medical discoveries to improve people's health. NIH investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. Composed of 27 Institutes and Centers, each with its own broadly defined mission, NIH provides leadership and financial support to more than 210,000 researchers in every state and throughout the world. The NIH Web site may be visited at http://www.nih.gov/.

Scientific Board Members--Grand Challenges in Global Health

Harold Varmus, M.D.
Chair of Board and Executive Committee
President and Chief Executive Officer
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Harold Varmus, former Director of the National Institutes of Health and co-recipient of a Nobel Prize for studies of the genetic basis of cancer, has served as President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City since January 2000.

Richard D. Klausner, M.D.
Member, Executive Committee
Executive Director
Global Health Program
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Rick Klausner directs the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Health program, whose overarching goal is to improve global health equity. Dr. Klausner formerly served as Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). NCI oversees one of the largest clinical trial, drug development and surveillance and epidemiology programs worldwide and the second largest HIV/AIDS program worldwide. Dr. Klausner is well known for his work in cell and molecular biology.

Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.
Member, Executive Committee
National Institutes of Health

On May 20, 2002, Elias Zerhouni began his tenure as the 15th Director of the National Institutes of Health. Prior to joining the NIH, Dr. Zerhouni served as executive vice dean of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, chair of the Russell H. Morgan department of radiology and radiological science, and Martin Donner professor of radiology and professor of biomedical engineering. His research in imaging led to advances in Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT scanning) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Roy Anderson, Ph.D., F.R.S.
Head, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology
Imperial College of the University of London

Roy Anderson is currently Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Head of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, University of London. His was previously the Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology, University of Oxford (1995-2000). Dr. Anderson is widely regarded as the world's leading infectious disease epidemiologist.

Mary Jane Cardosa, D.Phil.
Professor of Virology
Institute of Health and Community Medicine
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak

In 1995 Jane Cardosa started up the Institute of Health and Community Medicine (IHCM), a research institute at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. In the brief years since assuming leadership of the IHCM, Cardosa has successfully tackled such difficult diseases as dengue, Japanese encephalitis, and the mysterious viral illness which killed 31 Sarawak children in 1997.

Christine M. Debouck, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President
Worldwide Genomic & Proteomic Sciences
GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals

Christine Debouck manages the Division of Genomic & Proteomic Sciences in the Genetics Research Directorate at GlaxoSmithKline. She oversees about 200 laboratory scientists working in a transnational setting and conducting cutting edge functional genomics for drug discovery and drug development. Dr. Debouck was the first to submit a report on the identification of the HIV protease and its proteolytic activity.

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Health

In 1984, Tony Fauci became Director of NIAID, where he oversees an extensive research portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, illness from potential agents of bioterrorism, tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies. He has pioneered the field of human immunoregulation, has developed effective therapies for formerly fatal diseases, and made seminal contributions to the understanding of the AIDS virus.

William H. Foege, M.D., M.P.H.
Senior Fellow
Global Health Program
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill Foege is an epidemiologist who worked in the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. Dr. Foege is a former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. He also served as Executive Director of The Carter Center and on the faculty of Emory University. Dr. Foege retired in December of 2001; however, he remains active as Emeritus Presidential Distinguished Professor of International Health and as a Gates Fellow.

Julio Frenk, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.
Minister of Health
Mexico City, Mexico

Julio Frenk is currently the Minister of Health of Mexico. He took office on December 1, 2000. Prior to his present position, in 1998 he was appointed Executive Director in charge of Evidence and Information for Policy at the World Health Organization. His research has focused on health systems, where he has conducted studies on human resources, including the education and employment of physicians; the relationship between globalization and health; and the policy implications of shifts in the dominant patterns of health and disease.

Nirmal Kumar Ganguly, M.D.
Director General
Indian Council for Medical Research

Nirmal Ganguly is currently Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research. Dr. Ganguly's principal research interests are ethical issues in biomedical research, microbiology, parasitology, and diarrhoeal diseases and research.

Julie Louise Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Julie Gerberding became the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) on July 3, 2002. Her scientific interests include infection prevention, and healthcare quality promotion among patients and their healthcare providers.

Fotis C. Kafatos, Ph.D.
Director General
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Heidelberg, Germany

Fotis Kafatos is Director-General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the leading molecular biology laboratory in Europe. EMBL is recognized around the world as the highest performing European institute in life sciences. His current scientific work and interest involves malaria research with emphasis on mosquito genomics and innate immunity of the malaria mosquito. He is also actively involved with efforts to promote research and scientific education in the developing world.

Gerald Keusch, M.D.
Fogarty International Center
National Institutes of Health

Gerry Keusch is currently Associate Director for International Research and Director of the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health. His research has ranged from the molecular pathogenesis of tropical infectious diseases to field research in nutrition, immunology, host susceptibility, and the treatment of tropical infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS.

Francis Kwesi Nkrumah, M.D., Ph.D
Former Director
Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research
University of Ghana, ACCRA

Francis Nkrumah served as the Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research from 1990 and 1998. Dr. Nkrumah's current health sector interests are health research and health development, malaria and control of tropical endemic diseases, primary health care and child survival, the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) and vaccine preventable diseases.

Sir Gustav Nossal, Ph.D., F.R.S.
Department of Pathology
University of Melbourne
Victoria, Australia

Gus Nossal served as Director of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne from 1965 to 1996. He was also Professor of Medical Biology at The University of Melbourne. His research is in fundamental immunology. Dr. Nossal was knighted in 1977, made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1989 and appointed Australian of the Year in 2000.

Odile Puijalon, Ph. D.
Institut Pasteur
Paris, France

Odile Puijalon is Chef de Laboratoire at the Institut Pasteur Paris. Trained as a bacterial geneticist, she pioneered higher eukaryote expression in Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae in the late 70s. She is known for her work in the areas of vaccines, epidemiology, disease surveillance and diagnostics. For more than 20 years, she has been working on malaria vaccine development and in epidemiology and biodiversity studies in rural Africa.

Yiming Shao, M.D., Ph.D.
Chief Expert
National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention
Director, Division of Research on Virology and Immunology
Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Yiming Shao is the Chief Expert of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention (NCAIDS); and Director of the Department of Research on Virology and Immunology, NCAIDS, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Professor Shao has worked in AIDS research and control in China since the mid-1980s, with emphasis on HIV/AIDS prevention and control, HIV vaccines, and molecular epidemiology surveys.

Peter A. Singer, M.D., M.P.H., F.R.C.P.C
Sun Life Financial Chair in Bioethics and Director,
University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics

Peter Singer is the Sun Life Financial Chair in Bioethics and Director of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics and the Program Leader of the Canadian Program on Genomics and Global Health. He directs the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto. He is also Professor of Medicine and practices Internal Medicine at Toronto Western Hospital. His current research focus is global health ethics.

Florence Muringi Wambugu, Ph.D.
A Harvest Biotech Foundation International (AHBFI)
Nairobi, Kenya

Florence Wambugu is the Chief Executive Officer of A Harvest Biotech Foundation International (AHBFI). She is an agricultural plant pathologist with specialization in virology and genetic engineering for viral diseases crop protection. Dr. Wambugu's research investigates the power of biotechnology to boost vitamins, proteins and micronutrients in food nutrition through genetic engineering of food systems. She specializes in sweet potato crops.

Yongyuth Yuthavong, Ph.D.
Immediate Past President
Thai Academy of Science and Technology
Senior Researcher, National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
Thailand Science Park
National Science and Technology Development Agency

Yongyuth Yuthavong is Immediate Past President of the Thai Academy of Science and Technology. In 1992, he was appointed the first Director of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), where he served two terms. Currently, he works on the development of antimalarial drugs at the NSTDA's National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. Dr. Yuthavong's research interests include drug target interactions, drug resistance, molecular biology of malaria parasites, and the broad issues of science and technology.

Contact: Charles Pucie
NIH/Foundation for the National Institutes of Health

Message posted by: Frank S. Zollmann

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