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Multi-million pound Grand Challenge grants to tackle TB and malaria in the developing world

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For immediate release
Tuesday 28 June 2005

UK scientists are to help tackle TB and malaria in the developing world through their leadership of two major international research projects.

Announced today, two research teams from Imperial College London have received grants totalling $28.8 million (approximately £15 million) from the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative, a programme of research sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Professor Douglas Young, Department of Infectious Diseases, has received a grant worth $20 million (approximately £11million) to develop drugs for the treatment of latent TB, a condition affecting around one third of the world population, with up to ten percent risk of progress to active disease. TB is responsible for up to 2 million deaths worldwide. The risk of progression from latent to active TB is strongly increased in individuals who are coinfected with HIV.

Dr Austin Burt, Department of Biological Sciences, has received a grant worth $8.8 (approximately £4.8 million) million to develop genetic strategies to block the spread of malaria by mosquitoes.

Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College London said: "TB and malaria are both major causes of ill health and mortality in the developing world. These high profile grants from the Grand Challenges in Global Health programme recognise how research at Imperial can make a real difference to the world by helping to alleviate the suffering caused by these diseases."

Professor Young will lead an international consortium of researchers from Korea, Singapore, the United States and Mexico. They will focus on developing drugs effective in treatment of latent TB and also in shortening treatment times for active TB and helping to tackle drug resistant forms of the disease.

Dr Burt's work, in conjunction with University of Cambridge, University of Washington, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, will develop genetic strategies to block the transmission of malaria from mosquitoes by adapting a class of genes to spread through mosquito populations, either depleting the populations or making them unable to transmit malaria.

The Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, a major effort to achieve scientific breakthroughs against diseases that kill millions of people each year in the worlds poorest countries, has offered 43 grants totaling $436.6 million for a broad range of innovative research projects involving scientists in 33 countries. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to create "deliverable technologies" health tools that are not only effective, but also inexpensive to produce, easy to distribute, and simple to use in developing countries.

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Notes to editors:

The initiative is supported by a $450 million commitment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as two new funding commitments: $27.1 million from the Wellcome Trust, and $4.5 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The initiative is managed by global health experts at the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), the Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and CIHR. Additional proposed Grand Challenges projects are under review and may be awarded grants later this year.

The Grand Challenges initiative was launched by the Gates Foundation in 2003, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, with a $200 million grant to the FNIH to help apply innovation in science and technology to the greatest health problems of the developing world. Of the billions spent each year on research into life-saving medicines, only a small fraction is focused on discovering and developing new tools to fight the diseases that cause millions of deaths each year in developing countries.

Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (11,000) and staff (6,000) of the highest international quality.
Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to promote greater equity in four areas: global health, education, public libraries, and support for at-risk families in Washington state and Oregon in the U.S. The Seattle-based foundation joins local, national, and international partners to ensure that advances in these areas reach those who need them most. The foundation is led by Bill Gates father, William H. Gates Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, and has an endowment of approximately $28 billion.

The Wellcome Trust is an independent research funding charity established in 1936 under the will of the tropical medicine pioneer Sir Henry Wellcome. The Trusts mission is to foster and promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health, and it currently spends over £400 million annually.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canadas agency for health research. CIHRs mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to close to 10,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.