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Gates Grand Challenges Explorations selects medicine, public health researchers

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Holly Korschun

Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has selected two health sciences research teams for its latest round of grants focused on groundbreaking research in global health and development.

Jan Mead, PhD, professor of pediatrics in Emory University School of Medicine and an investigator in the Emory Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology, will lead a project studying cryptosporidiosis, an intestinal disease that causes substantial disease and death in young children in developing countries. Mead will work with co-investigator Rheinalt Jones, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics, and Colleen Kraft, MD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine.

The project is titled "Development of a Novel Humanized Microbiome Mouse Model for Cryptosporidiosis." The team will develop a mouse model of cryptosporidiosis using human fecal transplants to mimic changes in the bacterial populations (microbiome) in the gut that occur in the human disease. Cryptosporidiosis causes substantial disease and death in young children in developing countries.

Drugs used to eradicate the intestinal parasite Cryptosporidium are thought to be affected by the levels and types of bacteria that populate the human gut, which is of particular importance in malnourished children who most often become infected. The research team will colonize germ-free mice with human fecal material and infect them with Cryptosporidium. They will then use DNA sequencing to evaluate the effect of the infection and of selected drugs on the microbiome.

Kristin Wall, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology in Rollins School of Public Health, will lead a team project titled "Improving post-partum intrauterine devices (IUDs) in Rwanda."

Wall and her team plan to develop and test a multi-level intervention on post-partum IUD services in Rwanda to help improve maternal and newborn health, reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion, and control birth spacing. The copper IUD, a highly cost-effective, long-acting, reversible method of contraception, will be promoted and provided alongside the other contraceptive method options available to women in Rwanda.

"Although capacity building has been successful, and interest in post-partum IUD services among women in Rwanda has been reported, demand remains low," explains Wall. "We believe that with a multi-level intervention focusing on quality service provision as well as innovative promotional strategies, we will see a considerable increase in uptake of post-partum IUD services. Findings from this work will lay the groundwork for larger, randomized studies."

To receive funding, Wall and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of six critical global heath and development topic areas.  The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in February 2017.    

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, the program has awarded grants to more than 1,228 projects in more than 65 countries. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US $1 million.

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