Dr Neena Mitter
Dr Neena Mitter
9 May 2012

UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr Neena Mitter and colleagues from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “BioClay – crop protection against biotic stresses from field to market”.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mould in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges.

Dr Mitter’s project is one of more than 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said Grand Challenges Explorations encouraged individuals worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas where creative, unorthodox thinking was most urgently needed.

“We’re excited to provide additional funding for select grantees so that they can continue to advance their idea towards global impact,” he said.

To receive funding, Dr Mitter and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and nutrition.

Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9, will be accepted through to 15 May 2012.

Dr Mitter and her colleagues propose to design and develop ‘BioClay’ technology to deliver biological agents targeting plant pathogens.

“Current pest and disease management tends to rely on plant genetic resistance and /or transgenics coupled with insecticide and fungicide sprays,” Dr Mitter said.

“But the cost, safety and environmental issues associated with chemical sprays often act as major impediments to controlling disease pathogens in the field."

If successful, the ‘BioClay’ technology offers small-holding farmers safe, low cost, and environmentally sustainable solution for managing field and postharvest diseases.

About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, more than 600 people in 45 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organisation. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. 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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