Scotland, United Kingdom, June 02, 2010 --(PR.com
)-- Strathclyde has announced that it has received a US $100,000 (65,329 pounds Sterling approx) Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation.
The grant will support an innovative global health research project conducted by Dr Owain Millington and Dr Gail McConnell, for a laser-targeted system to vaccinate against the virulent Leishmania infection.
Dr Millington’s project is one of 78 grants announced by the Gates Foundation in the fourth 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 18 countries on six continents.
To receive funding, Dr Millington showed in a two-page application how their idea falls outside current scientific paradigms and might lead to significant advances in global health. The initiative is highly competitive, receiving almost 2,700 proposals in this round.
There are two million new cases each year of Leishmania in nearly 90 countries, mainly in Asia, Africa and South America. It is a chronic, disfiguring and potentially fatal infection but many of the treatments used against it have serious side effects and it is often resistant to first-line treatment.
The multi-disciplinary research will combine immunology, parasitology and laser-based imaging to design and build a new vaccination system. It involves using one laser system to create images of Leishmania parasites, subsequently deploying a second laser to kill the parasites within cells. Importantly, the cells which harbour Leishmania also control the induction of an immune response. Hence, the researchers intend not only to directly destroy parasites in these cells, but also to determine whether the treatment brings long-lasting protective immunity against reinfection.
Dr Millington and Dr McConnell are both Research Councils UK Fellows with the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences. Dr Millington said: "The Leishmania parasite is hugely damaging and one of its worst features is that it manipulates the immune system to prolong its survival. This means there's an urgent need for new drugs to control the diseases it creates, and protect against infection.
"There has been a great deal of research into the development of vaccines but it has had only limited success in preventing infection. Our aim is to work towards creating immunity with new and improved imaging systems to find, target and kill Leishmania parasites in a way which is less invasive and less time-consuming than current methods. We also hope to investigate the possibility of extending it to the treatment of other diseases.
"The multi-disciplinary nature of the work reflects the ethos of the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, where biological, pharmaceutical, chemical and physical scientists work together with the common goal of discovering and developing treatments for the biggest health challenges of the 21st century. The Institute's new building, for which funds are currently being raised, will enable better, swifter and more efficient delivery of these treatments for patients around the world."
“The winners of these grants show the bold thinking we need to tackle some of the world’s greatest health challenges,” said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program. “I’m excited about their ideas and look forward to seeing some of these exploratory projects turn into life-saving breakthroughs.”
The Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences is currently the subject of an 8 million pounds Sterling fundraising campaign for a 36 million pounds Sterling new building to expand and enhance its work in developing new medicines for diseases including cancer, heart disease, infectious diseases and schizophrenia.
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