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University of Iowa News Release


Note to Editors: This release is adapted from information provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Oct. 21, 2009

UI receives $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant

The University of Iowa has received a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will support an innovative global health research project conducted by Craig Morita, M.D., Ph.D., faculty member in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, to create a vaccine against microbes that cause diarrhea.

Morita's project is one of 76 grants announced Tuesday by the Gates Foundation in the third funding round of the Grand Challenges Explorations. This five-year, $100-million-dollar initiative aims to help scientists worldwide explore innovative, new ways to improve health in developing countries. Grants in this round were awarded to scientists in 16 countries on five continents. The initiative is highly competitive, receiving almost 3,000 proposals for this round.

Each year, 2.2 million people die from diarrhea-related illnesses worldwide, with most of the deaths occurring in developing countries, according to the World Health Organization. Diarrhea is a leading cause of childhood illness and death in developing countries. Even in the United States, there are millions of cases of bacterial diarrhea each year.

Morita, who is a UI associate professor of internal medicine, seeks to develop through metabolic engineering a novel vaccine against bacteria that cause diarrhea. This approach would cause engineered vaccine bacteria to overproduce a metabolite that strongly stimulates an immune response by gamma delta T cells. This action would then provide broad-spectrum immunity. Morita's goal is to provide "proof-of-principle" that metabolic engineering can be used for vaccine development.

"The winners of these grants show the bold thinking we need to tackle some of the world's greatest health challenges," said Tachi Yamada, M.D., 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."

Launched in 2008, Grand Challenge Explorations grants have been awarded to more than 180 researchers from 29 countries. Learn more about the grant program at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Care Media Relations, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319-356-7127,