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AgResearch Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant


AgResearch Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant For Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development

AgResearch announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Senior Scientist Dr Axel Heiser, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Mycobacterial biobeads as a novel Mycobacterium tuberculosis vaccine”.

“This grant will enable us to research a new way of vaccinating against tuberculosis, which is a significant problem for cattle worldwide and is also a significant issue for people in developing countries,” says Dr Heiser.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and persistent global health and development challenges. GCE invests in the early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to solve the problems people in the developing world face every day. Dr Heiser’s project is one of over 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Investments in innovative global health research are already paying off,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We continue to be impressed by the novelty and innovative spirit of Grand Challenges Explorations projects and are enthusiastic about this exciting research. These investments hold real potential to yield new solutions to improve the health of millions of people in the developing world, and ensure that everyone has the chance to live a healthy productive life.”

To receive funding, Dr Heiser and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a creative idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and communications. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10, will be accepted through November 7, 2012.

“This project utilises the core nano-particle technology of PolyBatics developed by Professor Bernd Rehm at Massey University, with whom we have an ongoing collaboration,” says Dr Heiser.

“He showed how you could genetically modify bacteria to make little beads inside them which express antigens that work as a vaccine. This has worked with the model bacterium E. coli, and this grant enables us to take the concept beyond that and do it with an important pathogen.”

“If we can prove our hypothesis that biobeads produced in mycobacteria can be used as a novel type of vaccine against mycobacterial infections, including tuberculosis, we could apply this approach to a whole range of infectious diseases,” he says.


About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 700 people in 45 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. 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.

About AgResearch: AgResearch is New Zealand's largest Crown Research Institute and focuses on supporting the country’s pastoral sector through scientific research and innovation.

Our purpose is to enhance the value, productivity and profitability of New Zealand's pastoral, agri-food and agri-technology sector value-chains to contribute to economic growth and beneficial environmental and social outcomes for the country. We will do this by partnering with the pastoral sector to identify the innovation that is needed and deliver our collective expertise to create value for New Zealand.


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