UQ receives Grand Challenges Explorations grant for groundbreaking research in global health and development

13 Nov 2015

The University of Queensland announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Research groups led by Professor Paul Young of the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, and Professor Matt Cooper at UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled Next-gen diagnostics for field-based surveillance of Wolbachia and arboviral infections in wild mosquitoes.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mould in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Professor Young and Professor Cooper’s project is one of more than 50 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 15 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, Professor Young and Professor Cooper and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas. The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in March 2016.

The project aims to develop a portable tool to detect mosquitoes carrying dengue fever. Dengue virus is estimated to infect up to 400 million people globally each year. The next-generation diagnostic tool, which can be used in a field setting, uses quantum dot nanoparticles in a simple, cheap assay to measure the presence of a dengue virus protein. The test is also able to detect Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes. Wolbachia is a naturally occuring bacterium that has been added to mosquitoes to reduce their susceptibility to dengue and other viruses. “The idea is to test mosquitoes in the field for the presence of dengue as an early warning surveillance system,” Professor Young said.

Professor Cooper said: “We need to get the best tests we have out of the lab and into the field, where they can help identify dengue and track prevention measures in real time. Identifying hot spots early could help us get on top of epidemics before they break out.”

UQ Alumnus Dr Joanne Macdonald of the University of the Sunshine Coast is also a Global Challenges Exploration winner, and will pursue a project entitled: A rapid field test for detecting infected mosquitoes. Project team members include her former supervisor Professor Roy Hall of UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences. Dr Macdonald has developed a simple diagnostic test able to detect multiple pathogens that reduces costs compared to performing individual assays, and does not require specialised equipment.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 1160 projects in more than 60 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.

The University of Queensland

The University of Queensland (UQ) is one of Australia’s leading research and teaching institutions, ranked in the world’s top 50 by the QS World University Rankings and the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities. The University is the oldest and largest in Queensland, with 50,000-plus students engaged in more than 400 degree programs. UQ has been educating people to create change for a better world for more than a century, producing more than 225,000 graduates since opening in 1911 - including more than 11,500 PhDs, a Nobel laureate, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and leaders in government, law, science, public service and the arts.


Media contact: Julie Baglot, Engagement Manager, Faculty of Science - 07 3346 9498, 0411 162 577, j.baglot@uq.edu.au; IMB Communications - 07 3346 2134, 0418 575 247, communications@imb.uq.edu.au