OHSU receives additional Grand Challenges Explorations funding of novel approach to develop AIDS vaccine that blocks infection

05/09/12  Portland, Ore.

Oregon Health & Science University researchers have received additional funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to conduct AIDS vaccine research. The funding enables individuals worldwide to test unorthodox ideas that address persistent health and development challenges. OHSU’s research funded through a $999,998 grant will take place at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute on OHSU’s West Campus in Beaverton, Ore., and will be led by assistant scientist Jonah Sacha, Ph.D.

Sacha and colleagues are taking a unique approach to a problem that has eluded scientists for many years: the development of a protective, antibody-based AIDS vaccine that stops the virus from infecting the host. Previous research, also funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has suggested this might be possible. These studies are based on lessons learned from the immune response to both HIV and cancer. Instead of targeting the highly mutable virus itself, the new approach will target a surrogate marker of HIV infection to block the transmission of HIV.

“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.”

Grand Challenges Explorations funds scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Sacha’s project is one of six Grand Challenges Explorations Phase II grants announced today.  

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a U.S. $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 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 OHSU

Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only academic health and research university. As Portland's largest employer with nearly 14,000 employees, OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support not found anywhere else in the state. OHSU serves patients from every corner of Oregon and is a conduit for learning for more than 4,300 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to each county in the state.