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University of Maryland School of Medicine Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant For Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development

Thursday, May 10, 2012

 Shiladitya DasSarma has received a $100,000 grant to develop an oral vaccine in a salt shaker.

Shiladitya DasSarma, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology, has won a grant from Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He will pursue an innovative global health and development research project titled “Vaccine in a Salt Shaker: A New, Safe, Low-Cost Approach,” with the $100,000 grant.

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. DasSarma’s project is one of more than 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Grand Challenges Explorations encourages individuals worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas where creative, unorthodox thinking is most urgently needed,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We’re excited to provide additional funding for select grantees so that they can continue to advance their idea towards global impact.”

To receive funding, Dr. DasSarma and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and nutrition. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9, will be accepted through May 15, 2012.

Dr. DasSarma’s project utilizes novel microbes known as Haloarchaea, which can be packaged in salt crystals, as a system for delivery of antigens of pathogenic microorganisms. The approach has certain advantages, such as the ability to produce large quantities of vaccine inexpensively, simple oral administration, no need for refrigeration, and ease of distribution in remote locations worldwide.

He will lead a team of researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, along with international collaborators, to develop an inexpensive, safe and effective oral vaccine against invasive Salmonella disease. Dr. DasSarma’s laboratory is located at the University System of Maryland’s Institute for Marine and Environmental Technology in the Columbus Center in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant program was launched in 2008. More than 600 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.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Established in 1807, the University of Maryland School of Medicine is the first public medical school in the United States, and the first to institute a residency training program. The School of Medicine was the founding school of the University of Maryland and today is an integral part of the 11-campus University System of Maryland. On the University of Maryland's Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine serves as the anchor for a large academic health center which aims to provide the best medical education, conduct the most innovative biomedical research and provide the best patient care and community service to Maryland and beyond.

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