Montana State University

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

June 3, 2014 -- MSU News Service

Blake Wiedenheft, left, and Seth Walk are part of a team working together to develop a new tool to study how disease-causing microbes interact with the human gastrointestinal tract. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham).    High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
msunews@montana.edu

BOZEMAN – Montana State University announced today (June 3) that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Seth Walk, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Engineering Human Intestinal Organoids to Model Dysbiosis DU.”

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.  Walk’s project is one of more than 50 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 12 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

To receive funding, Walk and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 12 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. 

Walk is the second MSU faculty member to win a Grand Challenges Explorations Grant. David Sands, professor in MSU’s Department of Plant Pathology and Plant Sciences, won a Grand Challenges Explorations Grant last fall. With his $100,000, 18-month grant, Walk and two collaborators – Blake Wiedenheft at MSU and Jason Spence at the University of Michigan – will develop a new tool to study gastrointestinal tract dysbiosis more effectively. The tool is a 3-D human tissue culture that is more relevant to human disease than mouse models. Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance of microorganisms that causes a variety of health problems, including gastroenteritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Infections caused by certain pathogens and the loss of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to dysbiosis.

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 evelynb@montana.edu