A BIRAC INITIATIVE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
THE BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION
& IKP KNOWLEDGE PARK
TO IDENTIFY, NURTURE AND EMPOWER REVOLUTIONARY IDEAS
THAT ADDRESS GLOBAL HEALTH CHALLENGES
Call 1 – May -June 2016
Link to Challenge is here
Note: GCE-India was earlier piloted as the IKP Grand Challenges Explorations Program. Over the last 3 rounds, the winners were: Link to winners is here
November 2011 -Call 1 (IKP Grand Challenges Explorations)
1. Dr. Kanury Rao, from the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biology (ICGEB), New Delhi. Dr. Rao proposed an alternative chemotherapy strategy to target TB, by modifying host proteins to inhibit the activity of the bacteria. Dr. Rao and his partner Sphaera Pharma are working on developing molecules that inhibit 3 host factors, that will reduce the infection of MDR/XDR strains, and can be combined with other drug regimens as a cure for TB.
2. Dr. Ganesan, the from Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTech), Chandigarh. K. Ganesan and Pradip Sen of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research – Institute of Microbial Technology in India will work to selectively kill cells latently infected with HIV by engineering reagents that would initiate killing only upon specific binding to proviral DNA. If successful, further development could result in a possible cure for latent HIV, which is thought to block the ability of anti-retroviral drugs to fully eradicate the disease.
November 2012 -Call 2 (IKP Grand Challenges Explorations)
1. Dr. Ashish Ganguly, CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh and colleagues from the CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology will make an affordable paper-based diagnostic to quickly and precisely measure plasma gelsolin levels in expectant mothers to help predict premature delivery and postpartum recovery, thereby reducing new mother and child mortality rates. They will determine the value of plasma gelsolin levels for predicting postpartum-related problems using patient sampling and an animal model of preterm birth. They will also develop the diagnostic by identifying a plasma gelsolin binding peptide that will be used to coat an optimized paper strip, along with a cell phone based read-out to enable remote analysis by a centralized unit.
2. Windmill Health Technologies, New Delhi comprising Dr. Avijit Bansal and Dr. Ayesha Chaudhary will develop an easy-to-use device to enable front-line health workers to more successfully resuscitate newborns. The current bag and mask device is inefficient and requires two trained personnel who are often not available. They have designed a foot operated manual resuscitator that also reports real-time performance, and requires only one trained operator. They will measure performance parameters of the prototype to generate evidence to support progress into clinical trials.
3. Dr. Rohit Srivastava and Dr. Aravind Kumar from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in India will develop a microneedle-based drug delivery system for the treatment of tuberculosis (TB). Current treatment involves frequent administration of combinations of toxic drugs, which often leads to non-compliance necessitating further complex treatments. They have designed a photo-thermosensitive nanocarrier based on liposomes that can release the drugs transdermally via microneedles upon exposure to sunlight or LED in a controlled manner, bypassing the need for multiple administrations and reducing toxic side effects. They will fabricate the microneedles, evaluate drug release dynamics using light, and test drug bioavailability in vivo using a small animal model.
4. Dr. Vishwas Joshi, Founder of Seagull BioSolutions and team in India will develop a vaccine against the dengue virus by engineering a defective version of the measles virus to express dengue virus proteins (a so-called virosome), which can induce protective immunity. There is currently no approved vaccine that protects against dengue infection, which causes disease in 50-100 million people annually, some of which are life threatening. They will test the efficacy of the virosomes to prevent dengue virus infection by using them to vaccinate mice and analyzing immunity upon viral exposure.
November 2013 -Call 3
1. Dr. Debjani Paul from IIT Bombay, is developing an Accurate, Accelerated and Affordable Kit to Predict Sickle Cell Disease Using Microfluidics and Cell Phone-based Imaging Systems. Current diagnostics require expensive equipment and trained personnel, and are often inaccessible to the rural populations most in need. They will produce a microfluidic chip that can preserve a sample of blood in the deoxygenated environment required to maintain its characteristic sickle-shape, which can then be detected by a modified mobile phone camera and automated software that they will also develop. The system will be tested for sensitivity and specificity using blood from patients with sickle cell disease.
2. Dr. Sanjiban Banerjee, founder of AbGenics Life Sciences is working on treatin intestinal worm (helminth) infections using modified probiotic strains of the bacterium Lactobacillus. Lactobacillus, which can live in the human gut, will be modified to produce stable RNA molecules selected to target specific helminth genes and ultimately destroy the parasite, thereby curing the infection. Because Lactobacillus colonizes the gut, it can be used as a long-term treatment for multiple helminth infections. Efficacy of the approach will be tested in hamster and rabbit models of intestinal worm infections.
3. Kouichi Hasegawa of the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India will develop an assay using human liver cells to study the parasite Plasmodium vivax, which causes malaria, and to screen for new anti-malarial drugs. During the parasitic life cycle inside human hosts, P. vivax infects hepatocytes (liver cells), where it can lie dormant and protected from treatment, leading to disease relapse. To identify new drugs to target this stage of P. vivax requires large numbers of human liver cells, which are difficult to obtain and often unsuitable. A new approach will be used to generate human hepatocytes by isolating a type of white blood cell from individuals infected with P. vivax, and inducing them to differentiate into hepatocytes, which should better support parasite growth. Once validated, this P. vivax liver-stage culture system will be used in a preliminary screen of a set of chemical compounds to identify new anti-malarial drugs.