Griffith University’s Eskitis Institute is to receive additional funding of almost $US1 million through an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables researchers worldwide to test unorthodox ideas addressing persistent health challenges.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds scientists and researchers to explore

ideas to solve global health and development challenges.

Eskitis Institute Director, Professor Ronald J Quinn AM, will continue to pursue an

innovative global health research project, titled ‘New Screening Technologies for

Drug Discovery of Latent Malaria Infections’.

Professor Quinn’s project is one of 12 Grand Challenges Explorations Phase II

grants announced.

“Finding solutions to persistent global health problems is a difficult, lengthy and

expensive process,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“GCE was designed to tap into the innovators of the world by providing resources needed to explore bold ideas that are typically too risky to attract funding through other mechanisms,” he said.

“We’re excited to enable further development of novel approaches that can prevent or reduce the burden of diseases that kill or disable millions of the world’s most vulnerable.”

Projects receiving additional funding show promise in tackling priority global health issues where solutions do not yet exist. This includes finding effective methods to eliminate or control infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV.

The project’s ultimate goal is to isolate biologically active natural products that can

be developed into drugs to eradicate malaria and tuberculosis.

“The results of the first phase showed that certain small natural product molecules, called fragments, bound to malaria proteins,” Professor Quinn said.

“Some of these fragments killed the parasites in the gametocyte stage of the parasite’s reproductive cycle, which is when transmission occurs through mosquitoes.

“We’ll also build a larger library of natural compound fragments and screen more malaria and tuberculosis proteins.”

The Institute’s research is dedicated to discovering compounds from nature using

a range of tools to identify, select and process natural products destined for

medicinal use.

Local and international collaborators include the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (Associate Professors Katharine Trenholme and Don Gardner), the Menzies School of Health Research at Charles Darwin University (Professor Ric Price), the University of Washington (Professor Wes Van Voorhis), the TB

Alliance (Dr Takushi Kaneko), Medicines for Malaria Venture (Dr Didier Leroy)and other Eskitis researchers (Dr Kathy Andrews).