DETROIT — Wayne State University announced Friday it had been awarded two  Grand Challenges Explorations research grants, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, totaling nearly $200,000.

The first project, “Linoleic acid as a preventative and-or therapeutic agent for Cholera,” is led by Jeffrey Withey, assistant professor of immunology and microbiology in WSU’s School of Medicine.

The second project, “Mobile immunization tracking and management systems,” is a collaborative effort by Paul Kilgore, M.P.H., M.D., associate professor of pharmacy practice in WSU’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences and Weisong Shi, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science in WSU’s College of Engineering.

“This funding from the Gates Foundation will help support our research that is focused on cholera, a severe and often fatal diarrheal disease that afflicts about five million people each year, and leads to tens of thousands of deaths in developing countries,” Withey said. “This project will test linoleic acid, a widely used dietary supplement, as both a preventative and therapeutic agent for cholera. This is true translational research, as we will be moving our basic research findings from the laboratory to cholera patients.”

Added Kilgore: “Dr. Shi and I are pleased to receive funding from the Gates Foundation for our project that is a novel approach for creating a unique immunization record system using mobile software applications, cloud computing, bar-coding and wireless information technology. Our proposed system will enable linking immunization information within local and national areas, and will be particularly useful in developing countries that lack real-time information on current vaccine supplies.”   Grand Challenges Explorations funds individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and persistent global health and development challenges. GCE invests in the early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to solve the problems people in the developing world face every day.  Wayne State University’s projects are two of over 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, Withey, Kilgore and Shi and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a creative idea in one of five critical global health and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and communications. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10, will be accepted through Nov. 7.

“Wayne State’s projects seek to help areas of the world where our research ideas can make an impact on lives,” said Hilary Ratner, vice president for research at Wayne State University. “We are pleased to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to foster innovative ideas to overcome health challenges through proper treatment and availability of appropriate vaccines and medicines. These projects have significant potential to help others.”

Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 700 people in 45 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required.  Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to $1 million.

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