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Weill Cornell Medical College receives 2 $100,000 grants for innovative global health research

NEW YORK (Oct. 30, 2008) -- Weill Cornell Medical College announced today that it has received two $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grants will support innovative global health research projects: "Untimely Triggering of the Fusion Mechanism Used by Viruses for Entry: A New Antiviral Approach Using Engineered Microparticles," conducted by Dr. Anne Moscona, and "Senescent and Rejuvenated Mtb Subsets on Exit from Latency," conducted by Dr. Carl Nathan.

The projects are two of 104 grants announced by the Gates Foundation for the first funding round of Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative to help scientists around the world explore bold, new solutions for health challenges in developing countries. The grants were provided to all levels of scientists in 22 countries and five continents.

To receive funding, the Weill Cornell Medical College researchers showed in a two-page application how their ideas fall outside current scientific paradigms and could lead to significant advances in global health if successful.

Dr. Anne Moscona and colleagues will research a new antiviral approach to treating respiratory viral disease that uses engineered microparticles to hijack the mechanism that the viruses use to enter cells.

Acute respiratory infections account for close to 20 percent of deaths in young children around the world. Pediatric respiratory viruses -- including the human parainfluenza viruses that cause croup, bronchiolitis and pneumonia -- account for a major portion of these diseases. There are currently no vaccines or antiviral drugs for these viruses.

"We expect to show that this approach will inactivate the viruses and render them non-infectious," says Dr. Moscona, who is professor of pediatrics and microbiology & immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College and vice chair for research of pediatrics at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Carl Nathan and colleagues will study the genetic mechanism by which tuberculosis emerges from its latent state into an infectious and symptomatic disease.

Tuberculosis is a major cause of death around the world, with as many as one-third of the world's population infected with the bacterium, among whom about 16 million develop the disease each year and more than 1.6 million succumb, mainly in developing countries. The majority of those infected have a clinically latent infection; that is, they test positive for the bacterium but are asymptomatic and not contagious. However, 5 to 10 percent of this latent group will develop tuberculosis, becoming symptomatic and infectious.

"Understanding how the mycobacterium resumes replication will be key to reducing the prevalence of latent infection to break the cycle of TB transmission," says Dr. Nathan, who is chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, R.A. Rees Pritchett Professor of Microbiology and director of the Abby and Howard P. Milstein Program in Chemical Biology of Infectious Disease at Weill Cornell Medical College.

"I congratulate each individual who took the initiative to share their idea with us to help fight the world's most serious diseases," says Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation's Global Health Program. "The number of creative approaches we received exceeded our highest aspirations. Projects from this initial pool of grants have the potential to transform health in developing countries, and I will be rooting for their success."


Contact: Andrew Klein
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College

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