Contact: Michael Skinner, Professor, School of Molecular Biosciences, 509/335-1524, firstname.lastname@example.org
WSU Receives $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for Innovative Global Health Research
PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University announced today that it has received a US$100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will support an innovative global health research project conducted by Michael Skinner, professor in the School of Molecular Biosciences, titled "Long Lasting Contraceptive Pill Development."
Skinner's 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, Skinner showed in a two-page application how his 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.
Skinner aims to develop a male contraceptive pill that would be taken orally and last for two to four months before the next pill or a return to fertility. His effort comes 50 years after the unveiling of the birth control pill for women—a period in which no equivalent has been developed for men.
Skinner says this is because most efforts have focused on the endocrine system, an effective focus for women but extremely difficult in men.
Skinner will focus on optimizing and testing a compound that has been shown to impair the functioning of the Sertoli cell, which enables the production and maturation of sperm. Understanding this compound could lead to the development of a reversible, long-lasting male contraceptive pill.
"The Gates Foundation decision to start a program in contraception is an extremely appropriate move," Skinner said. "Many of our society's problems—the greenhouse effect, overuse of natural resources and our food supply—are primarily due to overpopulation."
Skinner is the founder of WSU's Center for Reproductive Biology, the largest of its kind in the world with 13 labs and hundreds of graduate students, staff and fellows. One of WSU's most prolific and widely cited researchers, Skinner has appeared in numerous documentaries and twice seen his work chosen as one of Discover Magazine's top 100 discoveries of the year.
Skinner's laboratory has had a long standing research program into how ovaries and testis develop and function at the molecular and cellular levels. Most recently, the lab has focused on how environmental effects on the development of sex glands can pass from generation to generation.
"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."
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 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.
Applications for the current round of Grand Challenges Explorations are being accepted through May 19, 2010. Grant application instructions, including the list of topics for which proposals are currently being accepted, are available at http://www.grandchallenges.org/explorations.
Washington State University is a land-grant university that conducts transformational research and provides world-class education to more than 25,000 students statewide. The Carnegie Foundation classifies WSU as one of 96 U.S. public and private universities with very high research activity. U.S. News and World Report consistently ranks the University among the top 60 public universities.