CTEGD receives a Grand Challenges Explorations Grant

Boris Striepn

The Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant For Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development

 Athens, Georgia – The Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Dr. Boris Striepen, distinguished research professor at the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and Dr. Yasmine Belkaid, chief of the mucosal immunology section at the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “A physiological mouse model of cryptosporidiosis”.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) supports innovative thinkers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges.  Drs. Belkaid and Striepen’s project is one of more than 55 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 17 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, Drs. Striepen and Belkaid and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of six critical global heath and development topic areas.  The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in February 2017.


Cryptosporidiosis is a leading global cause of severe diarrhea in infants and an important contributor to child mortality. Cryptosporidiosis also causes stunting of growth and development, casting a lingering shadow on the future of children. There are no vaccines or effective drug treatments to face this challenge. Cryptosporidiosis also threatens children in the United States through drinking and recreational water. The severity of the disease and its response to cure heavily depends on the immune and nutritional status of a child. At the moment systems that appropriately model these critical factors are missing. Current animal studies have to rely on large animals such as calves, or on mice that lack an immune system; these are very expensive and have many limitations. This lack of a manageable, more realistic model has been a significant impediment for the development of novel drugs and has all but prevented work towards a vaccine.

This collaboration between the University of Georgia and the National Institutes of Health will establish a natural infection model in laboratory mice. This experimental system is based on a new parasite strain that the UGA team isolated from ‘wild’ mice, capable of infecting mice with a normal immune system. The NIH team has conducted pioneering work to understand how the bacterial communities that naturally colonize the intestine influence infection and immunity during cryptosporidiosis. Together UGA and NIH researchers will investigate the complex interactions of parasite, host and gut microbiome. This new model will dramatically speed up the development of effective therapy and prevention for pediatric cryptosporidiosis. It will also help to unravel how cryptosporidiosis contributes to the vicious cycle of malnutrition, infection and stunting, and how this cycle may be broken in the future to save and improve the lives of children.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, over 1228 projects in more than 65 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 US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

 About UGA and NIAID

The Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases (http://ctegd.uga.edu/) of the University of Georgia conducts research, education and service related to global infectious diseases.

The University of Georgia (http://uga.edu), a land-grant and sea-grant university, is the state’s oldest, most comprehensive, and most diversified institution of higher education.

The Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases (https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/lab-parasitic-diseases) conducts basic and applied research on the prevention, control, and treatment of a variety of parasitic and bacterial diseases of global importance.

The National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (https://www.niaid.nih.gov/) conducts and supports basic and applied research to better understand, treat, and ultimately prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases.