Gates Foundation supports malaria drug quest

Professor Ron Quinn AM, Principal Research Leader at the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery.

Griffith University announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Professor Ron Quinn will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Shotgun Target Identification”.

We propose to use anti-malarial compounds as probes to discover their protein targets,” he said.

“Mass Spectrometry will blast away the rest of the protein revealing the binding site for the compounds.

“The successful outcome of this project will enable target identification at a much larger scale.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and persistent global health and development challenges.

GCE invests in the early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to solve the problems people in the developing world face every day. Professor Quinn’s project is one of over 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Investments in innovative global health research are already paying off,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We continue to be impressed by the novelty and innovative spirit of Grand Challenges Explorations projects and are enthusiastic about this exciting research. These investments hold real potential to yield new solutions to improve the health of millions of people in the developing world, and ensure that everyone has the chance to live a healthy productive life.”

To receive funding, Professor Quinn and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a creative idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and communications.

Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10, will be accepted through November 7, 2012.

Professor Quinn and his team have previously demonstrated a bioaffinity method that can be applied to pure proteins and anti-malarial compounds. However the method is limited to the panel of pure proteins that are available. This project will explore a novel method to overcome this bottleneck for target identification by expanding the scope to all proteins occurring in the malaria parasite.

The Eskitis Institute is undertaking bioaffinity mass spectrometry to identify natural product fragments that bind to individual malaria proteins. The fragments come from a unique biota collection of more than 45,000 samples of plants and marine invertebrates from tropical and temperate Australia, China and Papua New Guinea. This work is also funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 700 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.