Three Canadian research teams are catching the scientific community's attention because of their unusual take on genomic research, reports The Globe and Mail's Anna Mehler Paperny. The three have recently won grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to "pursue sci-fi health projects so far-fetched they wouldn't normally qualify for conventional funding," Paperny says. At the Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Andrès Finzi seeks to use toxic genes to invade and destroy cells infected by HIV, using the same mechanism the virus itself uses to invade healthy cells. Mario Ostrowski of St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto is also studying HIV. Ostrowski is trying to find ways to train the human body to eradicate the virus, without the need for conventional vaccination, Paperny says. And at the University of British Columbia, human microbiome researchers Deanna Gibson and Sanjoy Ghosh are working to determine whether the state of a pregnant woman's microbiome can affect her baby, and whether changes in the mother's diet during pregnancy affects her baby's gut microbiome. "Each is on the receiving end of $100,000 grants from the Gates Foundation, announced Monday. And if their research is successful, they’ll be up for a million-dollar second phase of the foundation’s Grand Challenges Initiative," Paperny says. But even if they don't get the second round of money, the researchers say the initial grant shows that sometimes, crazy ideas can be worth funding.
Nov 11, 2011