Vital Signs Archive
URMC Receives $100,000 Grant to Foster Innovative Global Health Solutions
Smith will use University’s first Gates Foundation
grant to tackle drug-resistant HIV
This October, URMC received a Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The $100,000 award is one of 104 grants designed to help scientists “explore bold, new solutions for health challenges in developing countries,” and represents the first round in the foundation’s five-year, $100 million initiative.
To receive funding, researchers had to draft a two-page application showing that their ideas fell outside current scientific paradigms and could, if successful, lead to significant advances in global health. This initial set of grants, provided to scientists in 22 countries, was chosen to inject fresh perspective into research seeking to prevent or cure infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
One focus of the initiative is to support work seeking to limit the emergence of viral resistance to drug treatments. Antibiotics and anti-viral therapies have been the centerpiece of efforts to control diseases like AIDS, but their effectiveness has been compromised by disease-causing organisms, which evolve so quickly that drugs are rendered obsolete. HIV, for instance, has been become resistant to every antiviral drug prescribed today.
Harold C. Smith, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the Medical Center, has received the institution’s first individual grant from the Gates Foundation to pursue an unorthodox approach to the dire problem of viral resistance to current AIDS drugs.
“While AIDS is no longer an immediate death sentence, those living with it long term struggle terribly in part due to drug resistance,” Smith said. “Patients must regularly switch medications as their infection becomes resistant and take treatment breaks as side effects become too punishing, which only further encourages viral resistance. We are grateful to the Gates Foundation for supporting new approaches, especially because many traditional funding sources are not comfortable with supporting broadly innovative leaps.”
The Gates Foundation believes work like Smith’s could revolutionize lives around the globe.
“I congratulate each individual who took the initiative to share their idea with us to help fight the world’s most serious diseases,” said Tachi Yamada, M.D., president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program. “The number of creative approaches we received exceeded our highest aspirations. Projects from this initial pool of grants have the potential to transform health in developing countries, and I will be rooting for their success.”