Murdoch receives $100,000 to develop a contraceptive for third world

November 10, 2010

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Murdoch University’s advanced nanotechnology group led by   Dr Gérrard Poinern has just received a US$100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The grant, the only one given in Western Australia, will support an innovative ‘inject and forget’ contraceptive drug delivery device for the third world.

Dr Poinern’s project is one of 65 grants announced by the Gates Foundation in the fifth 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 ‘inject and forget’ delivery system uses a novel biosynthetic bone-like material, which once injected under the skin, slowly releases a controlled dosage of drugs.

“The first application of this new novel biomedical device will be for the delivery of contraceptive drugs in many of the world’s least developed countries, which are the focus of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program,” Dr Poinern said.

“However the device we will develop, which will be placed just under the outer layer of skin, will regulate the controlled release of therapeutic drugs into the body and could be used for a variety of clinical applications.”

Dr Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program said: “These are bold ideas from innovative thinkers, which is exactly what we need in global health research right now.  I'm excited to see some of these daring projects develop into life-saving breakthroughs for those who need them the most.”

The research capitalises on Murdoch’s extensive experience in developing new biosynthetic composite materials for biomedical devices and implants.  The grant will fund phase one which will allow the team to spend 18 months developing a feasible technology.  If successful, the group will then work with a third-party drug company on human trials for the new drug delivery method.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a five-year, $100 million initiative of the Gates Foundation to promote innovation in global health.  The program uses an agile, streamlined grant process – applications are limited to two pages, and preliminary data are not required.  Proposals from around the world are reviewed and selected by a committee of foundation staff and external experts, and grant decisions are made within approximately three months of the close of the funding round.

The next round of Grand Challenges Explorations will open in March 2011.  More information, including grant application instructions and a list of topics for which proposals will be accepted, will be available at www.grandchallenges.org/explorations.

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