11 May 2010

The University of Queensland has received a US$100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The grant will support an innovative global health research project conducted by Dr Krassen Dimitrov, of UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

The project is titled: “Nano-Dumbbells for Single-Molecule Diagnostics from Saliva”.

Dr Dimitrov’s project is one of 78 grants announced by the Gates Foundation in the fourth funding round of Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative to help scientists around the world explore bold and largely unproven ways to improve health in developing countries.

The grants were provided to scientists in 18 countries on six continents.

To receive funding, Dr Dimitrov showed in a two-page application how his idea falls outside current scientific paradigms and might lead to significant advances in global health.

The initiative is highly competitive, receiving almost 2700 proposals in this round.

According to Dr Dimitrov, biomarkers are molecules characteristically associated with specific diseases in humans.

"Detection of the miniscule amounts of malaria biomarkers in saliva can eliminate the need for blood samples, as well as reduce the associated risk of infection and patient anxiety," Dr Dimitrov said.

"Our research aims to develop an electronic device that will enable us to count single molecules of a known malaria antigen for reliable and inexpensive diagnosis.

"It will be a cheap method to detect malaria which is responsible for approximately one million deaths per year, primarily in developing nations," he said.

"The winners of these grants show the bold thinking we need to tackle some of the world’s greatest health challenges," said Dr Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program.

"I’m excited about their ideas and look forward to seeing some of these exploratory projects turn into life-saving breakthroughs."

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a five-year, $100 million initiative of the Gates Foundation to promote innovation in global health. The program uses an agile, streamlined grant process – applications are limited to two pages, and preliminary data are not required. Proposals are reviewed and selected by a committee of foundation staff and external experts, and grant decisions are made within approximately three months of the close of the funding round.

Applications for the current round of Grand Challenges Explorations are being accepted until May 19, 2010.

Grant application instructions, including the list of topics for which proposals are currently being accepted, are available at www.grandchallenges.org/explorations.

AIBN is a multidisciplinary research Institute focused on solving some of the complex problems in the areas of human health, energy and the environment.

Media contact: Dr Krassen Dimitrov 0434 004 919