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The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Funding

PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia 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.  

Terri Finkel, M.D., Ph.D., chief of Rheumatology at Children's Hospital and Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, will pursue an innovative global health research project, titled "Use of a BET Antagonist to Control and Cure HIV Infection."

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. Finkel's project is one of 110 Grand Challenges Explorations grants announced today.

"We believe in the power of innovation—that 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. Finkel and her research team will study the potential of drugs called synthetic BET (bromodomain extra terminal) family protein antagonists to control HIV infection and latency. Current HIV drugs reduce the disease-causing virus to undetectable levels, but the virus goes into a dormant state called latency, from which it can make a resurgence if a patient stops taking medication. Previous studies by Dr. Finkel and other scientists have suggested that BET antagonists may flush HIV out of its hiding places where it can be destroyed by other antiretroviral drugs.

Dr. Finkel's chief collaborator in this project is Gerd A. Blobel, M.D., Ph.D., holder of the Frank E. Weise III Endowed Chair in Pediatric Hematology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who has focused on the biological activities of BET family proteins. In the first part of the project, Drs. Finkel and Blobel will investigate the effectiveness of BET antagonists against HIV in cell cultures. If these results are encouraging, the project will progress to clinical trials in patients with HIV. Because this class of drugs will soon be tested in humans as treatments for other diseases, appropriate BET antagonists are expected to be freely available for HIV clinical trials.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, Grand Challenge Explorations grants have already been awarded to nearly 500 researchers from over 40 countries. 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 an opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

About The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking third in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 516-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit

Contact: John Ascenzi
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Phone: (267) 426-6055  

SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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