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 world's poorest countries,
recently 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
The initiative is supported by a $450 million commitment from
the Bill & 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. The initiative
is managed by global health experts at the Foundation for the National
Institutes of Health, 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 NIH, 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. The 14 Grand
Challenges were identified from among more than 1,000 suggestions
from scientists and health experts around the world.
"The Grand Challenges projects are very ambitious, and the researchers
are taking important risks that others have shied away from," said
NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni, who is a member of the Grand Challenges
scientific board. "Many of these research projects will succeed,
leading to breakthroughs with the potential to transform health
in the world's poorest countries."
He said, "When we started this project, the Gates Foundation had
only committed $200 million. It is telling that the funding was
increased.because of the quality of the grand challenges, in the
sense that each one of them is a long-term problem that would be
of defining importance for the field of global health."
Zerhouni said NIH currently spends about $600 million a year on
global health activities, "about half of which is related to TB
and malaria.Our global health portfolio outside of HIV/AIDS has
almost tripled in the past 5 years." He said NIH invests in 85
countries currently, and views the Grand Challenges funding as
complementary to what NIH is already doing abroad.
Zerhouni noted that "the researchers involved in these projects
really come from backgrounds that would not have been attracted
to this field, were it not for this funding source."
For a full description of the projects that were funded, visit