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McCormick Professors Win Prestigious Gates Foundation Grant

Northwestern University will receive funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for an innovative project that seeks to significantly decrease the price of drugs that treat HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.  

Grand Challenges Explorations funds scientists and researchers worldwide who are testing unorthodox ideas and tackling priority global health issues where solutions do not yet exist.

The prestigious award to Linda J. Broadbelt and Keith E.J. Tyo, professors of chemical and biological engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, is one of 110 Grand Challenges Explorations grants announced this week.

Broadbelt and Tyo will develop novel biosynthetic processes to make important drugs that are too expensive to be purchased in resource-poor countries. Current chemical synthesis methods for producing many of these drugs require expensive reagents and have very low yields. Biosynthetic processes use inexpensive reagents, such as sugar, and precisely control the chemistry, increasing yields. More efficient biosynthetic production could dramatically expand the use of these drugs in poor countries and reduce the mortality and spread of diseases.

“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.”

Broadbelt and Tyo will receive an 18-month grant of $100,000. Successful projects have an opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to $1 million.

-- University Relations