The Sickle Cell Cure Foundation, Inc. (SCCF), announced today that it has received a US$100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will support an innovative global health research project conducted by Robert H. Broyles, Ph.D., SCCF President, titled “Malaria Stopped by a Human Protein Therapeutic.”
Dr. Broyles’ project is one of 78 grants announced by the Gates Foundation in the fourth funding round of Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative to help scientists around the world explore bold and largely unproven ways to improve health in developing countries. The grants were provided to scientists in 18 countries on six continents.
To receive funding, Dr. Broyles showed in a two-page application how his idea falls outside current scientific paradigms and might lead to significant advances in global health. The initiative is highly competitive, receiving almost 2,700 proposals in this round.
The research of Dr. Broyles and The Sickle Cell Cure Foundation, Inc., of Oklahoma City. will build on the recent discovery that elevated fetal hemoglobin (HbF), which alleviates sickle cell disease, can also confer malaria resistance. Broyles and his team will test the ability of a stable human protein to reactivate a silent gene that encodes for HbF, making red blood cells inhospitable to malaria parasites. If successful, the idea is to target the therapy in the host to reduce malaria infections.
Dr. Broyles earned the Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from Wake Forest University Medical Center, Winston-Salem, N.C., did postdoctoral research at Florida State University, has held faculty positions at the University of Wisconsin -Milwaukee and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and has served as a visiting research scientist at the National Institutes of Health, the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. In 2006, Dr. Broyles founded The Sickle Cell Cure Foundation, Inc. (SCCF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit research foundation dedicated to a universal cure for sickle cell and related diseases.
“We have discovered a way of shutting off the sickle cell gene and reactivating a fetal hemoglobin gene in its place, a switch known to stop all the bad, deadly manifestations of SCD,” says Broyles. “The realization that this same manipulation will make people resistant to malaria is even more exciting.”
“The winners of these grants show the bold thinking we need to tackle some of the world’s greatest health challenges,” said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program. “I’m excited about their ideas and look forward to seeing some of these exploratory projects turn into life-saving breakthroughs.”
About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a five-year, $100 million initiative of the Gates Foundation to promote innovation in global health. The program uses an agile, streamlined grant process – applications are limited to two pages, and preliminary data are not required. Proposals are reviewed and selected by a committee of foundation staff and external experts, and grant decisions are made within approximately three months of the close of the funding round.
Applications for the current round of Grand Challenges Explorations are being accepted through May 19, 2010. Grant application instructions, including the list of topics for which proposals are currently being accepted, are available at http://www.grandchallenges.org/explorations.