Gates Foundation Invests in Antiviral Tomatoes, Mosquito Fungus, Etc.

By Rachel Cernansky | May 5, 2009 2:31 pm

Bill GatesUnconventional is the theme of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s latest round of endorsements. The foundation on Monday awarded 81 five-year research grants of $100,000 to scientists pursuing bold ideas that could lead to breakthroughs, focusing on ways to prevent and treat infectious diseases, such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia and diarrheal diseases [AP].

One grant, for example, will be awarded to Rutgers University’s Eric Lam, who is working to develop tomatoes that can deliver antiviral drugs. Another grant will fund a British research team attempting to compile a library of all possible mutations of HIV with the ultimate goal of a vaccine that can protect against many variant forms of the virus. In the US, [one researcher will receive] a grant to see if shooting a laser at a person’s skin before administering a vaccine can enhance immune response [Telegraph].

Fourteen of the grants focused on novel strategies to combat malaria, which kills more than 800,000 people each year around the globe. The Gates Foundation chose to fund a British team seeking to build an inexpensive instrument to diagnose malaria by using magnets to detect the waste products of the malaria parasite in human blood [Telegraph]. Another grant will support a scientist working on a fungus that can infect malaria-carrying mosquitoes and suppress their sense of smell—and thus prevent them from finding, and infecting, people.

The foundation also plans to spend $73 million over five years helping small farmers in impoverished countries. The agriculture grants include $40 million over five years to develop drought-tolerant corn, $13 million over four for more efficient irrigation, and $10 million over four years to help women develop education and training programs related to agriculture [AP].

Related Content:
80beats: Experimental Malaria Vaccine Could Start Saving Lives by 2011
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80beats: Will Polio Be the Second Disease Eradicated From the World?

Image: Wikimedia Commons

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • http://discovermagazine.com John Cassady

    Nice to see one of our filthy rich doing things to help.

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