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UVA Lands $7M from Gates Foundation

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A University of Virginia researcher will use a $6.8 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to work on a collaboration with the foundation and with the National Institutes of Health to study genetic factors involved in malnutrition.

UVA said this week that William Petri, who is chief of the UVA School of Medicine’s Infectious Diseases and International Health division, will use the funds to assist his work as chair of the Malnutrition Biomarkers Discovery section of the Global Network for Malnutrition and Enteric Disease Research (Mal-ED).

The Mal-ED Network involves the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, the Gates Foundation, the Fogarty International Center, and other partners in the US and in Brazil, South Africa, Bangladesh, and Tanzania.

The network aims to create epidemiological tools that can be used to study links between intestinal infections and gut physiology as risk factors for malnutrition. Using mapping and modeling data, the network will try to quantify the global burden of disease and evaluate effective interventions.

"We don't sufficiently understand the causes of malnutrition. It's not solely the access to food, because there are many children who have enough to eat but are malnourished," Petri said in a statement.

"We know that some people are better protected from malnutrition based on their genetic makeup. We want to identify which genes provide this protection," explained Stephen Rich, of the Center for Public Health Genomics at UVA’s medical school, who will assist with the project’s genetics efforts.

Yesterday, Washington University said that its researchers would receive $5.5 million from the Gates Foundation to investigate whether gut microbes contribute to severe malnutrition.