CVM Researchers Receive Grand Challenges Explorations Grant For Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development


June 19, 2013

Ames, IA – Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine announced that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Drs. Bryan Bellaire, assistant professor in Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine, Richard Martin, professor in Biomedical Sciences and Balaji Narasimhan, professor in Chemical and Biological Engineering will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled Single Dose Therapies Against Human Filarial Diseases.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Dr. Bellaire’s project is one of the Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, Dr. Bellaire and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of four critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, neglected tropical diseases and communications. Applications for the next Round will be accepted starting September 2013.

We believe that Amphiphilic Polyanhydride (AmPa) based particles would serve as an excellent drug delivery platform that has the ability to dramatically improve the lives of people suffering from parasitic diseases such as Elephantiasis, River Blindness and Soil-Transmitted Helminth (STH) diseases. Improvements in efficacy and safety of therapies for these Neglected Tropical Diseases are possible due to co-delivery of several anti-parasitic drugs into single dose therapeutic with delayed/persistent drug release, enhanced pathogen/organ targeting and is compatible with multiple routes of administration. The unconventional and creative aspects of this proposal are that the body treats the AmPa micro and nanoparticles that can be designed to slowly release combinations of anti-parasitic drugs to attack both juvenile (microfilaria) and adult filarial for preventative or therapeutic treatments.

Challenging aspects to treating filarial and helminthic diseases with similar therapies are the different pathogenic phases for each disease and the different tissue systems involved. This becomes critically important when drugs are delivered systemically through the oral route and the pathogen that is targeted occupies only a small subset of host tissues (e.g. LF-lymphatics; RB-skin and eye; STH-blood and lung). A benefit of the AmPa drug delivery platform is that the particles present themselves to the host in a manner similar to the pathogen. We anticipate that the AmPa particles will be targeted to infected tissues for more efficient killing of parasites. With focused drug delivery, we have already observed substantial increases in efficacy with smaller total amounts of antibiotic against intracellular bacterial pathogens. In addition, the single dose therapies will be formulated for delivery to the eye to target RB and assessed for protection of lower limbs from soil exposure to helminthic parasites using STH adhesive AmPa films.

About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 800 people in more than 50 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.