Montana State University

MSU Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development

November 20, 2013 -- From MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN – Montana State University announced today, Nov. 20, that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  David Sands, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Plant Sciences, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Saving labor at the village level via biological weed control.”

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges.  Sands’ project is one of more than 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 11 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

To receive funding, Sandsand other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 11 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included development of the next generation condom, agriculture development, and neglected tropical diseases.  

Sands is fighting malnutrition and saving labor with a fungus that kills a parasitic weed destroying crops across Africa. Sands discovered the fungus in west Kenya and improved it in the lab to make it even more effective without harming the environment. He then developed a simple way to grow and plant the fungus so farmers can spend far less time weeding their crops. At the same time, they can improve yields and create room in their fields for more crops.  Sands’ technique involves a petri dish, toothpicks and pink, boiled rice.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, more than 850 people in more than 50 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 $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to $1 million.


Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or