Washington, DC—The Carnegie Institution announced today that it is a grant recipient of the Grand Challenges Explorations initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Wolf B. Frommer, director of Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology, jointly with Bing Yang from Iowa State University and Frank White from Kansas State University, proposed the innovative global health and development research project entitled “Transformative Strategy for Controlling Rice Disease in Developing Countries.”
“My team and I are very excited that Grand Challenges Explorations is funding this work,” remarked Frommer: “The program funds individuals who are tackling some of the toughest development and health issues with innovative approaches. We are proud to have support to engineer broad-spectrum resistance against rice bacterial blight through genetic engineering in order to create broad and durable resistance.”
Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) 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 potential to solve the problems people in the developing world face every day. The project, led by Dr. Frommer, is one of over 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Investments in innovative global health research are already paying off,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We continue to be impressed by the novelty and innovative spirit of Grand Challenges Explorations projects and are enthusiastic about this exciting research. These investments hold real potential to yield new solutions to improve the health of millions of people in the developing world, and ensure that everyone has the chance to live a healthy productive life.”
To receive funding, Frommer and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a creative idea in one of five critical global heath 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 November 7, 2012.
Bacterial blight of rice is an important disease of rice in many subsistence farming areas of the world. The pathogen infects plants to acquire host nutrients while plants, in turn, go to great lengths to prevent pathogens from accessing nutrients. Frommer and colleagues have discovered unique aspects of how plant pathogens hijack one of the host sucrose efflux transporters, which are proteins that allow the pathogen to tap into the plant’s sugar resources, and the researchers will use this information to generate resistance to blight. The goal is to use the most effective and environmentally friendly way to combat disease by breeding genetic resistance through innovative technologies.
About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$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 US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.