Gates Foundation awards grants to fight TB

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded two $100,000 grants to Weill Cornell Medical College, which will be used to advance the fight against tuberculosis.

The grants come as part of the Grand Challenges Explorations, which is an initiative meant to encourage bold and unconventional ideas for global health.

The grants will go to support Dr. Carl Nathan's global health research project, dubbed "Senescent and Rejuvenated Mtb Subsets on Exit From Latency," and Dr. Kyu Rhee's research, titled "Metabolosomes: The Organizing Principle of TB Latency."

Dr. Nathan and Dr. Rhee respectively, received $100,000 in 2008 and 2009 from the Grand Challenges Explorations. The new awards represent "next stage" funding for projects that have exhibited progress in their initial grant period and that align with the Gates Foundation's strategic priorities.

"The Grand Challenges Explorations projects receiving this new funding have been scientifically successful in their initial research and show great potential," Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation's Global Health Program, said. "Our hope is that one day these projects will lead to breakthroughs that could save millions of lives in developing countries."

Dr. Nathan's research will study the genetic mechanism that allows tuberculosis to emerge from its latent state into an infectious and symptomatic disease. It will test that idea that tuberculosis exits dormancy by dividing asymmetrically. Blocking this process could, in theory, aid treatment.

"Understanding how the mycobacterium resumes replication will be key to reducing the prevalence of latent infection to break the cycle of TB transmission," Dr. Nathan said.

Dr. Rhee will study the theory that Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is the causative agent of tuberculosis, utilizes specific protein-based structures called metabolosomes to enter into, maintain and exit from latency.

"Understanding how metabolosomes work may thus lead to new therapies that would help achieve control of the pandemic and potentially lead to its eradication," Dr. Rhee said.