Seven Aussie researchers win Gates Foundation grants

By Tim Dean
Wednesday, 21 October, 2009


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced the awarding of seven US$100,000 grants to Australian researchers who are investigating ways of diagnosing, preventing and treating infectious diseases.

The grants are a part of the Grand Challenges Explorations programme run by the foundation, which offers a total of 76 US$100,000 grants to combat disease in the developing world.

Researchers include Krystal Evans of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, who is working on a live malaria vaccine that will elicit a strong immune response against diverse strains of the parasite.

Paul Gilson of the Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health is researching a newly discovered mechanism in the malaria parasite that exports proteins into host red blood cells in an effort to develop compounds that block this transfer and inhibit parasite growth.

Simon Foote of the Menzies Research Institute at the University of Tasmania is investigating mutations that lend resistance to malaria after exposure in the hope of developing drug therapies that can mimic these protective effects.

Viktor Vegh of The University of Queensland is using nuclear magnetic resonance to develop a new diagnostic technique for malaria.

Ronald Quinn of Griffith University is researching compounds that bind to proteins in malaria when dormant which may lead to new drug therapies.

Udantha Abeyratne of the University of Queensland is using microphones attached to mobile phones and portable music players to record coughing and sleep sounds, which can be used to diagnose pneumonia.

Stephen Kent and John Stambas of the University of Melbourne are investigating an attenuated influenza virus vector with an adjuvant that stimulates natural killer cells. The goal is to induce robust immunity at mucosal surfaces to HIV.

With characteristic hyperbolic flair, Dr Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, said the winners of the grants showed the bold thinking needed to tackle some of the world’s greatest health challenges. “I’m excited about their ideas and look forward to seeing some of these exploratory projects turn into life-saving breakthroughs.”

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