Gates grant for TB researcher

5 May 2009

Boitumelo Semete of South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has secured a grant worth US$100 000 (about R828 000) from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for his research into anti-tuberculosis treatment.

Semete will attempt to develop “sticky” nano-particles that attach to tuberculosis-infected cells and slowly release anti-TB drugs, providing a therapy that could shorten treatment time and reduce side-effects while using existing medication.

The foundation is providing 81 grants to the value of $100 000 each to researchers in 17 countries through its Grand Challenges Explorations initiative, which promotes research into bold and largely unproven ways to improve health in developing countries.

Novel approaches

The projects focus on novel approaches to prevent and treat infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and diarrheal diseases.

“Investments in global health research are already paying big dividends. An incredible number of new vaccines, drugs, and other tools are becoming available to improve health in developing countries”, the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program president, Tachi Yamada, said in a statement by the CSIR this week.

“Grand Challenges Explorations is our way to help inspire the bold ideas that could one day help transform global health.”

New ideas

The 81 funded researchers will explore a wide range of new ideas, including giving mosquitoes a head cold to prevent them from detecting and biting humans, developing a tomato to deliver antiviral drugs, and using a laser to enhance the effect of vaccines.

Applicants were selected from more than 3 000 proposals in the second round. All levels of scientists are represented, from veteran researchers to young post-graduate investigators, as are a range of disciplines, such as neurobiology, immunology and polymer science.

The grantees are based at universities, research institutes, non-profit organisations and private companies in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and North America.

SAinfo reporter

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