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Gates Grants Fund Disease 'Omics

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced the winners of its first round of Grand Challenges Explorations grants for 2010, including funding for a number of research projects using genomics technologies for disease research.

The Grand Challenges grants give $100,000 to creative research projects that have promise in improving human health around the globe, with an emphasis on diseases that afflict the developing world. This is the fourth round of grants under the program, and it includes funding for 78 research projects working on diagnostic and therapeutic technologies for malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and other health issues.

Winners of the $100,000 in funding may be applicable for a second phase of support of up to $1 million if their research efforts are successful.

Among the grant recipients in this round:

• Kevin Plaxco of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who will develop a diagnostic platform based upon measuring the electric current produced by the binding of antibodies to DNA molecules.

• Simon Spivack of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine will test the theory that DNA of the tuberculosis bacterium can be detected in exhaled breath using nucleic acid amplification to detect the presence of mycobacteria.

• Shan Wang of Stanford University will refine a prototype diagnostic platform to develop a portable hand-held device for HIV screening that detects proteins labeled with magnetic nanoparticles.

• Vyas Sharma and David Lawrence of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will develop a diagnostic platform based on seed germination by integrating DNA amplification with the expression of reporter proteins in plant seeds for infectious disease detection.

• Vineet Gupta of the University of Miami will develop a computational model to identify new DNA sequences in the tuberculosis bacterium that can be used as biomarkers, and then employ zinc-finger tags to detect the identified DNA sequence in a diagnostic test.

• Krassen Dimitrov of the University of Queensland in Australia is developing a new diagnostic test which uses nanoparticles that bind to specific biomarkers in saliva and are present during infection.

• John Fisk of Colorado State University will develop a phage particle that can detect a protein found in the urine of active tuberculosis patients and will trigger a signal that can be detected.

• Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, will test the ability of RNA restriction enzymes to bind to specific RNA sequences inherent in a wide range of pathogens. This knowledge could be used to develop a urine-based colormetric test for disease that would function like a take-home pregnancy test.

A full list of recipients can be found on the Grand Challenges in Global Health website.

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