Learn about milestones in the Grand Challenges family of grant programs.
The Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative is modeled after the grand challenges formulated more than 100 years ago by mathematician David Hilbert. His list of important unsolved problems has encouraged innovation in mathematics research ever since.
When launched, Grand Challenges in Global Health committed $481.6 million for projects focusing on 14 major global health challenges. The aim was to engage creative minds across scientific disciplines to work on solutions that could lead to breakthrough advances for those in the developing world.
Grand Challenges in Global Health initially awarded 43 grants totaling $436 million to research projects involving scientists in 33 countries. Shortly thereafter, this investment was increased to 45 grants totaling $458 million. These projects, managed by teams working in partnership across disciplines, sectors and countries, featured leaders in fields such as chemistry, engineering, statistics, and business, who had never before focused on global health.
Grand Challenges in Global Health launched a new grant program to create technologies to assess health conditions and pathogens at the point-of-care in a variety of settings. $30 million in funding was committed for Phase I of this new diagnostics program. In coordination with this new program, Grand Challenges Canada launched a new point-of-care diagnostics grant opportunity directed primarily at researchers in low- and middle-income countries. $12 million Canadian in funding is available for this initiative.
Together these initiatives aim not only to develop and implement new technologies, but also to define standards for point-of-care diagnostics that would enable a single instrument to perform numerous diagnostic tests, thereby reducing cost and complexity within the healthcare system.
As part of the Grand Challenges in Global Health program, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) launched the Vector-based Control of Transmission Discovery Research (VCTR) grant program. Funded at $6 million, this program seeks innovative approaches to discover new chemical entities with novel mechanisms of action for use in insecticides to control malaria.
The government of Canada launched Grand Challenges Canada, a non-profit organization created to identify global Grand Challenges, fund researchers and organizations to address them, and support the implementation and commercialization of the solutions that emerge. The Canadian government committed $225 million to the organization through its Development Innovation Fund.
Informed by the Grand Challenges in Global Health model, Grand Challenges Canada uses "integrated innovation" that combines scientific, business and social innovation to find solutions to global health challenges. It launches requests for proposals both independently and in collaboration with partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Five years from the beginning of Grand Challenges in Global Health marked a turning point. The lessons learned from the successes and from the areas where redirection was needed continue to inform new programs within the initiative, including the design of new grand challenges.
Grand Challenges in Global Health launched a new grant program, Biomarkers for the Diagnosis of Tuberculosis. Funded up to $12 million, the new program seeks to validate biomarkers for use in developing a low cost, simple to use test that can quickly and accurately diagnose tuberculosis in low-resource settings.
Hillary Clinton and Melinda Gates announced "Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development," a grant program to find groundbreaking prevention and treatment approaches for pregnant women and newborns in rural, low-resource settings around the time of delivery.
Saving Lives at Birth takes elements of its approach from the Grand Challenges in Global Health and Grand Challenges Explorations programs and from those of Grand Challenges Canada; it uses a review process that rewards unconventional thinking, and it incorporates staged funding to maximize impact. "Seed" grants of up to $250,000 are given for specific innovations in science and technology, service delivery, or demand generation, while "Transition to Scale" grants of up to $2 million are given for approaches to integrate each of these components in a single program.
Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development announced 19 finalists for seed grants of up to $250,000. Among the nominated projects were an aerosol spray form of oxytocin – easily-administered and not requiring refrigeration – to prevent post-partum hemorrhage, a low-cost device (invented by an Argentinian car mechanic) to replace forceps and vacuum for simpler and safer assisted vaginal delivery, and a financially sustainable model by which local governments and private taxi drivers could partner to guarantee pregnant women access to routine and emergency care.
Vector-based Control of Transmission Discovery Research (VCTR), a component of Grand Challenges in Global Health, announced four grant awards totaling nearly $6 million. The VCTR program seeks new insecticides for malaria control.
Grand Challenges in Global Health, in partnership with the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), sought letters of inquiry for the new grant program Preventing Preterm Birth. This new program focuses on the generation of new discoveries for more rapid development of equitable, relevant, and innovative interventions to prevent preterm birth and stillbirth.
Grand Challenges in Global Health launched a new grant program, Discover New Ways to Achieve Healthy Growth. The goal of this opportunity is to elucidate new pathways or mechanisms that will directly inform the development of interventions for the prevention of impaired growth, i.e. stunting and wasting, and the associated impaired cognitive development during the first 1,000 days following conception in the developing world.
Grand Challenges in Global Health launched a new grant program to identify and validate biomarkers that accurately reflect the physical and physiological integrity of the gut in children in the developing world. With $9 million in funding, this new program support the Gates Foundation's Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases strategy.
Grand Challenges in Global Health and Grand Challenges Canada announced over USD $31 million in new grants to fund innovative ideas for point-of-care diagnostics in the developing world. More than 20 projects will focus on developing new technologies and identifying implementation issues to address the key barriers to clinical diagnostics in low-resource areas.
Grand Challenges in Global Health announced $7.7 million in funding for 10 new grants to identify biomarkers for diagnosing tuberculosis (TB) in low-resource settings. Partners on this program include the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), which will help monitor the grant portfolio and supply clinical TB samples from developing countries, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), which co-funded one of the grants.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Grand Challenges Brazil, a partnership that will launch joint initiatives. This partnership builds on Brazil’s strong and widely-recognized commitment to health equity, its extensive health system, and its robust research networks and manufacturing capabilities.
The first joint initiative is a grant program taking a Grand Challenges-based approach and focusing on reducing the burden of preterm birth. The partnership will also encompass collaboration through Grand Challenges Explorations.
Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development nominated 15 innovations for awards in its second round of funding. Among the nominated projects was a simple device to cut and clamp the umbilical cord while preventing infections, which are a major cause of newborn mortality; a version of an antibiotic for rectal administration, which can be given by unskilled personnel in the home to treat otherwise lethal sepsis in newborns; and postpartum contraceptive education and training to foster adequate birth spacing, which can help reduce maternal and newborn deaths.
Grand Challenges in Global Health launched a new grant program, TB Vaccine Accelerator. Funded up to $20 million, the new program seeks to develop new approaches to vaccination against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) and to develop models of natural Mtb transmission.
Grand Challenges in Global Health, in partnership with the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), announced five new grants, each funded at up to $2 million. The portfolio of funded projects seeks to discover the biological mechanisms that cause preterm birth and that can be used to guide new strategies for prevention.
Grand Challenges in Global Health announced seven new grants for projects seeking to identify the causes of unhealthy growth during the first 1,000 days following conception, and ways to prevent it.
Grand Challenges in Global Health announced seven new grants for projects seeking to identify and validate biomarkers for assessing gut function to improve the health and development of children.
The Grand Challenges Brazil partnership opened its first grant opportunity, "Reducing the Burden of Preterm Birth." This program seeks innovative research in biology, medical technology, delivery mechanisms, and behavior change that leads to high-impact prevention and treatment solutions for reducing the burden of preterm birth.
Grants will be to Brazilian researchers, but partnerships with researchers in other countries are encouraged. Solutions developed through the Grand Challenges Brazil preterm birth program could have broad impact, both within Brazil and beyond its borders.
Grand Challenges India is a partnership framework for the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in India, its Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to launch joint initiatives aimed at catalyzing innovative health and development research within India. DBT and BIRAC join an expanding global network of Grand Challenges partners fostering collaborative research to improve health within their own countries and around the world.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it was committing $100 million over five years to create a new fast-track grants initiative to support innovative, early-stage global health research.
The new program, called Grand Challenges Explorations, was an expansion of the Gates Foundation's commitment to the Grand Challenges in Global Health. The program's goal is to engage more of the world's innovators and to do so more quickly. Initial grants are for $100,000; successful projects can be awarded follow-on grants of up to $1 million.
In the first round of Grand Challenges Explorations, projects were invited that targeted the following topics: protection against infectious diseases, limiting drug resistance, preventing or curing HIV infection, and exploring the basis of TB latency.
In the second round of Grand Challenges Explorations, projects were invited that targeted the following topics: exploration of TB latency, protection against infectious diseases, new vaccines for priority global health issues, the eradication of malaria, and new ways to prevent or cure HIV.
After receiving more than 4,000 applications from around the world, the Gates Foundation awarded 104 researchers from 22 countries $100,000 each to jump-start their research into creative approaches, such as a "mosquito flashlight" to disrupt light wavelengths and prevent bites from malarial mosquitoes, self-destructing TB cells, and using anti-infective properties of the eye to help prevent infectious diseases.
In the third round of Grand Challenges Explorations, projects were invited that targeted the following topics: low-cost diagnostics, eradicating malaria, new vaccines, and new ways to induce mucosal immunity.
Eighty-one researchers from 17 countries were awarded $100,000 to explore a wide range of new ideas, including giving mosquitoes a "head cold" to prevent them from detecting and biting humans; developing a tomato to deliver antiviral drugs; and using a laser to enhance the effect of vaccines.
In the fourth round of Grand Challenges Explorations, projects were invited that targeted the following topics: new ways to protect against infectious disease, new contraception technologies, low-cost diagnostics, and new ways to induce and measure mucosal immunity.
Seventy-six scientists from 16 countries received $100,00 to test innovative ideas such as developing a paper cup that turns TB-positive sputum samples a bright orange, using a peptide found in scorpions to block development of the malaria parasite, and adapting a protein that parasites use to seal their egg cases for use as a "sticky coating" for intranasal vaccines.
In the fifth round of Grand Challenges Explorations, projects were invited that targeted the following topics: low-cost cell phone applications, new technologies to improve maternal and infant health, ways to protect against infectious disease, and new contraceptive technologies.
Seventy-eight researchers from 18 countries were awarded $100,000 each to explore early-stage projects such as low-cost cell phone microscopes to diagnose malaria, testing of the strategic placement of insect-eating plants to reduce insect-borne diseases, and testing nanoparticles to release vaccines when they come in contact with human sweat.
In the sixth round of Grand Challenges Explorations, projects were invited that targeted the following topics: protection against infectious diseases, new contraceptive technologies, curing HIV infection, low-cost cell phone applications for global health, eradicating poliovirus, new technologies to improve maternal and infant health, and next generation sanitation technologies.
The addition of a global development project – sanitation technologies -- highlights the integrated approach the foundation takes toward health in developing countries. Improved sanitation is essential to reducing water-borne illnesses and has profound economic, educational, and social benefits.
Nine Grand Challenges Explorations grantees who demonstrated initial success in their research received new funding of up to $1 million each to support continued work on their innovative global health idea.
Sixty-five researchers in 16 countries were awarded grants to pursue ideas as diverse as a TB vaccine delivered in a traditional Asian bean dish, a mobile phone tool to help assess complications in pregnant women and newborns, and solar-powered blankets of light for newborns suffering from jaundice.
Grand Challenges Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-funded a $1 million grant awarded to Timothy Geary of McGill University in Canada. Geary earned this Grand Challenges Explorations Phase II grant after success in his initial work developing collaborations in Africa to use African biodiversity to develop therapies to treat parasitic diseases.
In the seventh round of Grand Challenges Explorations, projects were invited that targeted the following topics: eradicating poliovirus, next generation sanitation technologies, low-cost cell phone solutions for childhood vaccination campaigns, curing HIV infection, nutrition for healthy growth of infants and children, and applying synthetic biology to global health challenges.
Eighty-eight grantees from 25 countries were awarded Grand Challenges Explorations Round 6 grants. Projects include research into how gut immunity impacts the effectiveness of the oral polio vaccine; using soil microbes to recharge cell phones for health care workers; and converting human waste into safe fertilizer and electrical energy.
Twelve Grand Challenges Explorations grantees received additional funding of up to $1 million to continue their innovative research for a two-year period. One of these Phase II grants, to Fredros Okumu of Tanzania's Ifakara Institute, was co-funded by Grand Challenges Canada.
In the eighth round of Grand Challenges Explorations, projects were invited that targeted the following topics: protecting crop plants, nutrition for healthy growth of infants and children, applying synthetic biology to global health challenges, new approaches to optimize immunizations, and new solutions for global health priority areas.
The addition of an agriculture topic – protecting plant crops – highlights the integrated approach the foundation takes toward health in developing countries.
More than 100 researchers from 21 countries were awarded Grand Challenges Explorations grants in to explore their early-stage projects focused on nutrition, sanitation, synthetic biology, cell phone-based solutions, HIV, and polio. Projects include formulating seaweed into nutritious, low-cost food; identifying human milk proteins that promote growth and development, and turning human waste into charcoal.
In November 2011, nine Explorations researchers have received additional funding of up to $1 million to continue their innovative projects for a two-year period. One of these Phase II grants, to Rajan Nanda of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology in India (on right), was co-funded by Grand Challenges Canada.
In the ninth round of Grand Challenges Explorations, proposals were invited that targeted the following topics: identifying anti-malarial compounds, communicating the positive impact of development aid, protecting crop plants, new approaches to optimize immunizations, and new solutions for global health priority areas.
The new communications topic – "Aid is Working. Tell the World" – is a partnership with Cannes Lions to challenge applicants to uncover new ways to find and distribute stories that will inspire people to support development aid. The new malaria topic – "New Approaches for the Interrogation of Anti-malarial Compounds" – provides successful applicants access to chemical libraries to test their ideas: Medicines for Malaria Venture’s "Malaria Box" and GlaxoSmithKline's Tres Cantos Anti-Malarial Set.
More than 100 researchers from 19 countries were awarded Grand Challenges Explorations grants to explore their early-stage projects focused on agriculture, immunization systems, nutrition, synthetic biology, and also more broadly on new global health solutions. Projects include a tattoo-like skin patch to monitor pregnancy, delivering vaccines with unmanned aerial vehicles, spray-on clay to deliver biological agents that protect crop plants from pathogens, and exploring the role of microRNAs in breast milk in promoting healthy growth of infants. In addition, six Explorations grantees received new funding of up to $1 million each to support continued work on their innovative idea.
In the tenth round of Grand Challenges Explorations, proposals were invited that targeted the following topics: labor saving innovations for women farmers, new approaches for the control and elimination of specific neglected tropical diseases, identifying anti-malarial compounds, and communicating the positive impact of development aid.
The new agriculture topic targets women farmers because of their key role as the family nexus of agriculture, nutrition, and health. The new neglected diseases topic seeks specifically to address diseases caused by parasitic worms, including elephantiasis and river blindness.
Ninety-four projects representing 19 countries were funded at the Phase I level. Projects focused on identifying anti-malarial compounds, communicating the positive impact of development aid, protecting crop plants, new approaches to optimize immunizations, and new solutions for global health priority areas. In addition, 15 projects received Phase II awards of up to $1 million each to support promising Phase I work.
In the eleventh round of Grand Challenges Explorations, proposals were solicited that targeted the following topics: developing the next generation of condom, increasing the interoperability of social data, bringing together human and animal health for new solutions, labor-saving innovations and strategies for women farmers, and new approaches for the control and elimination of specific neglected tropical diseases.
The new topic spanning family health and HIV infection – "Develop the Next Generation of Condom" – encourages applicants to apply new discoveries in materials science and human biology. The new advocacy topic – "Increasing Interoperability of Social Good Data" – is a partnership with Liquidnet for Good to find new ways to facilitate the use of data sets for evaluating and creating programs for social good. The new topic spanning health and agricultural development – "The 'One Health' Concept: Bringing Together Human and Animal Health for New Solutions" – seeks ideas from animal health to solve problems in human health, and vice versa.