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Insight: Research Edition
Consortium to Receive $19.7 Million Grant from Grand Challenges
Researchers at Colorado State University are collaborating with others around the globe on a dengue virus research project as part of the $436 million Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative funded primarily by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The endeavor is among 43 groundbreaking research projects to improve health in developing countries.
Drs. Kenneth Olson, William Black IV and Jonathan Carlson are part of the Colorado State University group working with Dr. Anthony James, Principal Investigator, University of California-Irvine, on a $19.7 million Grand Challenges award to develop technologies to control dengue virus. The Colorado State subcontract is approximately $5 million. There are nine universities and one biotechnology company involved in this Grand Challenge 7 grant titled “Genetic Strategies for Control of Dengue Virus Transmission.”
Dr. Olson is a Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology (MIP), and Director of the Arthropod-Borne and Infectious Disease Laboratory.
Dr. Carlson is Director of the Infectious Diseases Program, a University Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence, and a Professor in MIP. Dr. Black also is a Professor in MIP and one of his laboratory’s research focuses is on mapping genes in the target mosquito that condition susceptibility to dengue viruses.
Dengue fever has been known for more than 200 years. The disease is caused by a group of viruses transmitted to people by mosquitoes of the species Aedes aegypti. The global prevalence of dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades with the disease now endemic in more than 100 countries. The World Health Organization estimates 50 million cases of dengue infection each year with approximately 20,000 people dying from dengue annually.
The multinational dengue team will employ a combination of molecular, field and social science research to advance genetics-based strategies for preventing mosquitoes from transmitting dengue viruses. The project will examine approaches that could help inhibit viral development within the mosquito, reduce the ability of infected mosquitoes to successfully transmit the virus, and reduce or eliminate mosquito populations.
In addition to Colorado State University, other institutions joining UC-Irvine in the study are University of California-Davis, Texas A&M, University of Notre Dame, North Carolina State University, Cornell University, the Fiocruz Instituto de Tecnologia em Imunobiologicos in Brazil, the Eubios Ethics Institute in Thailand and Oxitec, a biotechnology company based in Great Britain that specializes in biological insect control.
The grant for the consortium adds to the rapidly expanding programs in infectious diseases at the College. In June, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ Infectious Diseases Program brought the University into the biodefense arena. Based on research programs already in place, and with ambitious plans to expand infectious diseases programs in the future, the University was awarded a four-year, $40 million grant to establish a Regional Center of Excellence (RCE) for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases research and training.
The Grand Challenges initiative was launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2003, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, with a $200 million grant to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH). It is an international effort to achieve scientific breakthroughs against diseases that kill millions of people each year in the world’s poorest countries. It is funded with a $450 commitment from the Gates Foundation with additional funding by the Wellcome Trust and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The initiative is managed by global health experts at FNIH, the Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and CIHR. For additional information on funded projects, go to www.grandchallengesgh.org.