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University of Southern Maine Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant For Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development

The University of Southern Maine announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Dr. Monroe Duboise will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Optimizing Immunization Systems by Development of Extremophile Bacteriophage-based Vaccine Platforms.”

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges.  Dr. Duboise’s project is one of over 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

“Grand Challenges Explorations encourages individuals worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas where creative, unorthodox thinking is most urgently needed,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We’re excited to provide additional funding for select grantees so that they can continue to advance their idea towards global impact.”

To receive funding, Dr. Duboise and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and nutrition.

Dr. Duboise’s research will focus on determining methods for developing vaccines that are inexpensive, stable and easy to produce in a wide range of locations. The project is based on previous work performed by researchers at USM and the University of Nairobi in Kenya to  isolate and complete the genomic DNA sequencing of bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria. These viruses are structurally stable in one of Earth’s most extreme environments, the hypersaline alkaline soda lakes of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. Dr. Duboise and his team have proposed using a bacteriophage from this extreme environment as a platform for developing an anti-malaria vaccine that will be relatively stable and readily produced using highly scalable and adaptable methods. The research of doctoral student, Naun Lobo, and other USM students working with Dr. Duboise has provided the important structural knowledge of the bacteriophage that is making the vaccine design process possible.

Dr. Duboise is Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Medical Sciences at USM with a Ph. D. in epidemiology of infectious disease from Yale University. He is a broadly trained microbiologist with a specific interest in bacteria and bacteriophages in extreme environments.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, over 600 people in 45 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 the University of Southern Maine

The University of Southern Maine is northern New England's outstanding public, regional, comprehensive university, dedicated to providing students with a high-quality, accessible, affordable education. From our campuses in Portland, Gorham, and Lewiston-Auburn, USM offers baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral programs, providing students with rich learning opportunities in the arts, humanities, politics, health sciences, business, mass communications, science, engineering, and technology. Our students will be the artists, scientists, business people, engineers, health care workers, public servants, teachers and others whose talents will fuel our economy—and shape tomorrow's world.