University polio research receives funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Release Date 03 May 2011
The University of Reading receives US$100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for Ground-Breaking Research in Global Health and Development
The University of Reading - School of Biological Sciences is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Professor Ian Jones will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled ‘Empty polio virus capsids produced by baculovirus expression as a safe and efficient vaccine'.
Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds scientists and researchers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Professor Jones's project is one of over 85 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 6 grants announced by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"GCE winners are expanding the pipeline of ideas for serious global health and development challenges where creative thinking is most urgently needed. These grants are meant to spur on new discoveries that could ultimately save millions of lives," said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
To receive funding, Professor Jones, and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 6 winners, demonstrated a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas: polio eradication, HIV, sanitation and family health technologies, and mobile health. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 7, will be accepted through May 19, 2011.
Polio, also known as poliomyelitis, is caused by a highly infectious virus. Poliovirus, the cause of poliomyelitis, has been almost eradicated by a vigorous global vaccination campaign. Polio causes flu-like symptoms but can be potentially fatal. A severe case of polio attacks the nerve cells that help the muscles to function and can cause severe muscle paralysis.
Currently vaccines are produced by growing large quantities of live poliovirus but in a polio-free world this itself poses a risk from accidental release. It would preferable, if possible, to develop a vaccine that did not require the growth of the live virus at all. In the work now funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Professor Jones will investigate new methods for the production of empty poliovirus capsids. These are virus-like-particles that stimulate the same immunity as poliovirus itself but are completely non-infectious. If successful this process could offer cost and safety benefits leading to the complete replacement of traditional vaccines without any loss of the capacity to protect the public from future outbreaks.
About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, Grand Challenge Explorations grants have already been awarded to nearly 500 researchers from over 40 countries. The grant programme is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required.
Initial grants of $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.