Money from Bill and Melinda Gates will help beat Dengue fever in Australia

Published on May 11, 2009 at 7:39 AM · No Comments

The University of Queensland (UQ) has won a grant of $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fight dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases.

Professor Paul Young is one of 81 scientists to be awarded funds in the latest round of grants from the foundation, set up by the Microsoft founder and his wife.

The grant is part of round 2 of the 'Grand Challenges Explorations' which fosters creative health projects which promise to improve the health of people in the developing world.

This week the Gates Foundation announced that 81 new global health projects received Grand Challenges Explorations grants of which Professor Young's "An Altruistic Vaccine for Mosquito Transmitted Pathogens" was one.

The money comes at an opportune moment as north Queensland is experiencing it's worse outbreak of dengue in 50 years with over 900 people infected.

Professor Young says dengue is a problem which affects millions around the world and mosquito transmitted pathogens such as dengue and malaria are a significant disease burden on the world's population.

His aim is to develop a novel vaccine approach that is based on blocking mosquito transmission of these disease agents rather than inducing pathogen-specific immunity.

Professor Young says while vaccines have been a cornerstone of global health campaigns to provide protection against infectious diseases, the discovery of new vaccines is a long and costly process of trial and error, with an uneven record of success.

He believes the proliferation of novel antigens, adjuvants, and formulations require new methods to more reliably select those entities that will elicit protective immune responses in humans and says the world needs new ways to protect against infectious diseases that do not resemble traditional vaccines.

Traditional vaccines are dependent upon the limitations of the human immune system and such dependence, says Dr Young, places a fundamental restriction on the solutions developed against infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria, TB, diarrhea, and pneumonia.

He says new ways are needed of pushing past these obstacles to expand the range of health interventions that protect against infectious diseases.

Professor Young says they are aiming for generic approaches to identify effective antigens, novel methods, or agents to generate an immune response and these may include unconventional approaches which harness the immune response, create an artificial immune response, block pathogen transmission, or shift the underlying epidemiology to protect against infection and disease.

Professor Young says these may be "off the beaten track," significantly radical in conception, and daring!

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