Penn State has received a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will support an innovative global health research project conducted by Consuelo De Moraes, associate professor of entomology, titled "Scent of Disease: Diagnostic for Malaria Infection in Humans."
De Moraes' 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, De Moraes showed in a two-page application how her 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.
De Moraes is working together with Mark Mescher, assistant professor of entomology, and Andrew Read, professor of biology and entomology and an Eberly College of Science Distinguished Senior Scholar. This team will look for chemical signs that can be used to identify people infected with malaria.
"Some reports suggest malaria infection induces odor cues that attract mosquitoes to infected people," said De Moraes. "We hope we can identify the chemical signature of malaria infection."Eventually, the researchers would like to see their work lead to the development of an "electronic nose" device that can diagnose cases of malaria in the field.
"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."