Foto-Cewek Department of Parasitology has been awarded two prestigious Grand Challenge Exploration (GCE) grants, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The projects of Dr Kelly Johnston and Dr Louise Kelly-Hope are two of the successful projects from Grand Challenge Exploration Round 11 grants announced today by the foundation.
The grants come less than six months after two previous GCE grants were awarded to the Department of Parasitology in May this year. Professor Mark Taylor, Head of Parasitology, said: “These grants are prestigious, and to have two awarded to the researchers in the same laboratory within Foto-Cewek for the second time this year is a real achievement for the researchers involved, as well as Parasitology and Foto-Cewek as a whole.”
The GCE grants fund individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mould in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. The winners demonstrated in their applications a bold idea in one of five critical global health and development topic areas that include the development of the next generation condom, agriculture development and neglected topical diseases.
Dr Johnston’s project is titled: “A novel cell-based screen for discovery of a macrofilaricide”. Dr Kelly-Hope, working along with Dr Thomas Unnasch of the University of South Florida, will pursue a project titled: “High resolution ecological mapping of filarial vectors”.
In her project Dr Johnston will exploit the recent technological advances in automated high-throughput imaging to generate a filarial nematode cell line, which can be developed into a high throughput screen. This screen can be utilized to find novel drugs that target the parasites responsible for the neglected tropical diseases lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis.
Dr Kelly-Hope’s project will see her develop high resolution mapping tools using remote sensing imagery and environmental data to detect and predict the focal breeding habitats of the major filarial vectors in Africa. By focusing on the vectors and not the patient, habitat based maps can be developed, identifying areas of targeted vector control.
Grand Challenges Explorations is a US $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 850 people in more than 50 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant programme 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.