WVU School of Medicine receives $100,000 Gates Foundation grant

Heimo Riedel’s global health research judged ‘innovative’

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University School of Medicine has received a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  The grant will support an innovative global health research project conducted by Heimo Riedel, Ph.D., titled “Molecular scissors to specifically disrupt a pathogen genome.”

Riedel is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at WVU.  His work is aimed at creating new tools for physicians to fight infectious diseases.

Riedel’s project is one of 81 grants announced by the Gates Foundation in the second funding round of Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative to help scientists around the world explore bold and largely unproven ways to improve health in developing countries.  The grants were provided to scientists in 17 countries on six continents.

To receive funding, Riedel showed how his idea falls outside current scientific paradigms and might lead to significant advances in global health.  The initiative is highly competitive, receiving more than 3,000 proposals in this round.

Currently, major weapons to fight infectious diseases are limited to vaccines and antibiotics, Riedel explained. He said his project will apply newly described zinc finger nucleases as molecular scissors to directly disrupt the genome of human papillomavirus, the cause of many cervical cancers.  Once validated, this approach could also be applied to fight other infectious diseases including malaria, pneumonia and tuberculosis.

“Basically, the research could lead to a new way of fighting infectious diseases and certain types of cancer,” Riedel said. “As we can see by the headlines in any newspaper, health concerns are at the center of attention. This work can help address some of those concerns.”

“The winners of these grants are doing truly exciting and innovative work,” said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program.  “I’m optimistic that some of these exploratory projects will lead to life-saving breakthroughs for people in the world’s poorest countries.”

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 next round of Grand Challenges Explorations are being accepted through May 28, 2009.  Grant application instructions, including the list of topic areas in which proposals are currently being accepted, are available at the Grand Challenges Explorations website,




For more information:
Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
GF/XX: 5-4-09

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