Researchers win Gates Foundation grant

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Researchers win Gates Foundation grant


USC PhD student Jia (Jessie) Li and Dr Joanne Macdonald with a test strip that can be used for detecting malaria and dengue.

13 November 2015

The University of the Sunshine Coast announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Principal investigator Dr Joanne Macdonald, a Senior Lecturer and researcher in molecular engineering, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled ‘A rapid field test for detecting infected mosquitoes’.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mould in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges.

Dr Macdonald’s collaborative project is one of more than 50 Global Challenges Explorations Round 15 grants announced today by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, Dr Macdonald and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global health and development topic areas. The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in March 2016.

The USC-led project will use its US$100,000 (A$138,000) grant over 18 months to develop a world-first rapid test kit for detecting multiple pathogens, such as deadly malaria and dengue, in infected mosquitoes.

“Research will be done in labs at Sippy Downs and in Brisbane, followed by field tests on wild mosquitoes in Cairns,” she said.

“We’ll be using new dipstick technology built at USC by PhD student Jia Li (Jessie).”

The project will also draw on the expertise of key collaborators, including entomologists Dr Andrew van den Hurk (Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services in Brisbane) and Dr Leon Hugo (QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane); and virologists Dr Cheryl Johansen (University of Western Australia in Perth) and Professor Roy Hall (University of Queensland in Brisbane).

In addition, USC’s Associate Professor of Interactive Digital Media, Christian Jones, will help develop a smart phone app for use in field trials.

“We will take photos of the dipsticks in Cairns using the smart phone app, which will then instantly analyse the photos for immediate and accurate diagnosis,” Dr Jones said.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 1160 projects in more than 60 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.

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