Colorado State University Receives $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for Innovative Global Health Research

Colorado State University announced today that it received a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will support an innovated global health research project conducted by Brian Foy, professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The grant will fund Foy’s work to control the transmission of disease from mosquitoes.

Foy’s project is one of 104 grants announced by the Gates Foundation for the first funding round of Grant Challenges Explorations, an initiative to help scientists around the world explore bold, new solutions for health challenges in developing countries. The grants were provided to all levels of scientists in 22 countries and five continents.

To receive funding, Foy and his collaborators showed in a two-page application how their idea falls outside current scientific paradigms and could lead to significant advances in global health if successful.

Foy and Massamba Sylla, a visiting scientist at Colorado State University who coordinates mosquito and malaria research in Senegal, will work to test drugs that could prevent the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria to humans. The study focuses on using endectocides, a class of drugs that Foy calls remarkable because they are extremely safe and renowned for their ability to kill many different parasitic worms that impact the health of people and animals. Some endectocides also can kill mosquitoes and other blood-feeding insects. Foy hopes to develop the drugs to kill certain species of mosquitoes – known to carry specific diseases – after the mosquitoes drink blood from a host treated with the drug.

"The development of such a control strategy could drastically impact the prevalence of certain infectious diseases transmitted by mosquitoes," Foy said. Each year, 350 million to 500 million people are infected with malaria through the bite of mosquitoes carrying the disease, and 1 million people die from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The majority of victims are young children in Africa.

Grand Challenges Explorations is a five-year, $100 million initiative of the Gates Foundation to promote innovation in global health. The program uses an agile, streamlined grant process – applications are limited to two pages and preliminary data are not required. Proposals are reviewed and selected by a committee of foundation staff and external experts, and grant decisions are made within approximately three months of the close of the funding round.

Applications for the second round of Grand Challenges Explorations are being accepted through Nov. 2, and topics for the third round will be announced in early 2009. Grant application instructions, including the list of topic areas in which proposals are currently being accepted, are available at

Colorado State University is among the world’s leaders in researching infectious diseases including malaria, West Nile virus, drug-resistant tuberculosis, yellow fever, dengue, hantavirus, plague, tularemia and other diseases.

This grant is part of the university’s Infectious Disease Supercluster and MicroRx. MicroRx is a first-of-its-kind enterprise to speed the transition of life-saving research on infectious diseases from the academic world into the global marketplace. The Infectious Disease Supercluster coordinates research activities across the university to optimize collaboration and the ability to share information and expertise among colleges and researchers working to prevent and cure infectious diseases.

MicroRx and the Infectious Disease Supercluster were unveiled in February. Infectious disease is the focus of the first of the university’s superclusters, which are alliances of academic researchers, economists and business experts that encourage collaboration and bridge the different worlds of business and academia. In the last few years, Colorado State has received millions in grants for infectious disease research, including research in the Infectious Disease Supercluster.

Infectious disease research programs receive roughly $40 million in annual research funding in such key areas as mycobacterial diseases, vector-borne diseases, prion diseases, food safety, plant pathology, and biodefense and emerging pathogens.