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St. Michael's Hospital receives Grand Challenges Explorations funding

TORONTO, Ont., Nov. 7, 2011St. Michael's Hospital announced today that it will receive funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables researchers worldwide to test unorthodox ideas that address persistent health and development challenges.

Dr. Mario Ostrowski, an infectious disease consultant, will pursue an innovative global health research project, titled A Human Endogenous Retrovirus Vaccine to Eliminate Latent HIV Reservoirs.

Grand Challenges Explorations funds scientists and researchers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Dr. Ostrowski's project is one of 110 Grand Challenges Explorations grants announced today.

"We believe in the power of innovationthat a single bold idea can pioneer solutions to our greatest health and development challenges," said Chris Wilson, Director of Global Health Discovery for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Grand Challenges Explorations seeks to identify and fund these new ideas wherever they come from, allowing scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs to pursue the kinds of creative ideas and novel approaches that could help to accelerate the end of polio, cure HIV infection or improve sanitation."

Projects that are receiving funding show promise in tackling priority global health issues where solutions do not yet exist. This includes finding effective methods to eliminate or control infectious diseases such as polio and HIV as well as discovering new sanitation technologies.

To learn more about Grand Challenges Explorations, visit

Dr. Ostrowski hopes to develop a vaccine that would eliminate the HIV from infected people, including the persistent viruses that hide in unknown "reservoirs" in the body. He proposes to target human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) sequeneces in the human genome thought to be derived from virsuses that existed millions of years ago. Scientists have observed that when HIV viruses grow, so do HERVS, so if they can trigger the immune system to destroy one, perhaps it can also destroy the other.


Contact: Leslie Shepherd
St. Michael's Hospital

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