UCLA Engineering Receives Gates Foundation Grant for Cancer Research

May 26, 2016

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science announced today that it is a winner of a Grand Challenges Explorations grant, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Daniel Kamei, a professor of bioengineering, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Thermodynamic detection of cancer biomarkers on paper.” Kamei’s co-investigator on the research is Dr. Anna-Barbara Moscicki, chief of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA and a member of the UCLA Children’s Discovery and Innovation Institute at UCLA.

Anna-Barbara Moscicki, MD
Anna-Barbara Moscicki, MD

Grand Challenges Explorations funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how to solve persistent global health and development challenges. Kamei’s project is one of more than 40 Grand Challenges Explorations grants, out of roughly 1,300 applications, announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, Kamei and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas. Kamei’s group is proposing to develop a paper-based diagnostic device that can rapidly determine if women are at risk for cervical cancer.

Despite being potentially preventable and curable, cervical cancer continues to be a leading cause of cancer-related death for women living in regions with limited health care resources. This is largely due to the lack of effective cervical cancer screening programs in developing countries, which creates a clear need for an alternative diagnostic approach to conventional methods.

Cervical cancer screening has traditionally involved direct sampling of the cervix by a health care provider, which poses numerous physical and financial barriers in low-income countries. In addition, if women seek to sample cells at the cervix with a self-collected vaginal swab, they are unlikely to collect reliable concentrations of biomarkers that can assess the potential for cancer.

Accordingly, women in resource-poor communities could greatly benefit from a simple, low-cost, and equipment-free test that can be self-administered and provide easily interpretable results in less than 30 minutes.

Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Launched in 2008, more than 1,186 projects in more than 61 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 $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to $1 million.

The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in September 2016.


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