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Hutchinson Center researcher receives $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant for innovative global-health research

SEATTLE — October 22, 2008 — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center today announced that it has received a U.S. $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will support an innovative global-health research project conducted by James Kublin, M.D., M.P.H., who directs the Hutchinson Center-based HIV Vaccine Trials Network.

Kublin's project is one of 104 grants announced by the Gates Foundation for the first funding round of Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative to help scientists around the world explore bold, new solutions for health challenges in developing countries. The grants were provided to all levels of scientists in 22 countries and five continents.

To receive funding, Kublin showed in a two-page application how his idea falls outside current scientific paradigms and could lead to significant advances in global health if successful.

The $100,000 grant will provide seed money to develop a way to generate large numbers of infective malaria sporozoites in the lab. The goal is one day to use modified but still infective sporozoites in a whole-cell malaria vaccine. This is a different approach than has been used to date, according to Kublin.

"Many efforts to generate an effective vaccine against malaria have focused on using well-characterized recombinant proteins as immunogens," said Kublin, also an associate professor in the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine. "We and others hypothesize that using modified but still infectious sporozoites will result in vaccines that elicit a more protective and durable immune response. The advantage for preferring whole organisms over subunits is the comprehensiveness of a complete, live and infectious parasite as a vaccine; once injected, it delivers a large number of potential antigens to the immune system."

The current approach of generating a whole-cell sporozoite vaccine is to dissect them out of the salivary glands of mosquitoes. "That may provide sufficient volume for clinical trials, but a vaccine for public-health interventions will require quantities of sporozoites obtainable only through in vitro culture with large-scale capacity," Kublin said.

The in vitro culture techniques that will be developed in the lab essentially will replicate, if not improve upon, sporozoite development in the mosquito.

Sporozoites are the end product of the cycle that begins when an uninfected mosquito bites an infected person or animal and ingests the blood. The infected blood contains the reproductive cellular building blocks for producing sporozoites, thus infecting the mosquito and perpetuating the malaria life cycle.

"I congratulate each individual who took the initiative to share their idea with us to help fight the world's most serious diseases," said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation's Global Health Program. "The number of creative approaches we received exceeded our highest aspirations. Projects from this initial pool of grants have the potential to transform health in developing countries, and I will be rooting for their success."

Media Contact
Kristen Woodward
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
(206) 667-5095
kwoodwar@fhcrc.org

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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit www.fhcrc.org.

About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a five-year $100 million initiative of the Gates Foundation to promote innovation in global health. The program uses an agile, streamlined grant process - applications are limited to two pages, and preliminary data are not required. Proposals are reviewed and selected by a committee of foundation staff and external experts, and grant decisions are made within approximately three months of the close of the funding round.
Applications for the second round of Grand Challenges Explorations are being accepted through November 2, 2008, and topics for the third round will be announced in early 2009. Grant application instructions, including the list of topic areas in which proposals are currently being accepted, are available at www.gcgh.org/explorations

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is a world leader in research to prevent, detect and treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases.