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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Fund Biomarkers of Gut Function for Global Health

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is currently seeking letters of inquiry for the grant program Biomarkers of Gastrointestinal (Gut) Function and Health. Letters of intent are due by January 11th, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. PST. The grant program is part of a new biomarker grand challenge under the Grand Challenges in Global Health, a suite of grant programs intended to help overcome bottlenecks that prevent the creation of new and better health solutions for the developing world.

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the interface with everything that is consumed from the environment. The GI tract is responsible for the uptake of all micro- and macronutrients, extraction and removal of toxins and waste, and metabolism and biosynthesis of critical molecules. Additionally, the gut is the largest home of immune cells in the body and acts as a physical and immune barrier to pathogens.

Disturbances in gut function can result in devastating health effects, which are especially notable in young children exposed to new pathogens, antigens and xenobiotics, and inadequate nutrients, since they have the greatest requirements for somatic and brain development. The goal of this program is to identify and validate biomarkers or biomarker signatures that accurately reflect the physical and physiological integrity of the gut in children in the developing world. Biomarkers of interest will be sensitive, quantitative indicators that can be correlated with outcomes such as nutrient absorption, failure of linear growth (stunting), and cognitive development, all of which can be impacted by enteric infections and malnutrition.

Individual grants are eligible for up to $1.5 million per project. Letters of Inquiry are due by January 11, 2012. Invitation for submission of full proposals will occur in March 2012 and the application deadline for full proposals is April 2012.

Candidate biomarkers of interest can span a range of host markers or factors, including cellular proteins, metabolites, markers of tissue injury/repair or acute inflammation, or systemic markers (such as hormones) that would be indicative of gut function (or dysfunction) and status. Applicants must provide a description of the methods for testing and analysis of candidate biomarkers, including plans for determining quantitative levels of the biomarkers or biomarker signatures, if applicable. Proposals should be centered on the development of methods for the evaluation of candidate biomarkers or biomarker signatures hat also focus on analyses that can be performed directly on patient samples or with minimal processing or stimulation steps.

Topic Areas of Interest:

  • Investigation and validation of factors involved in retaining healthy gut lineages or normal barrier functions and intestinal permeability; markers could include the extracellular domain of receptors of epithelial cells or other measurable characteristics.
  • Studies on and discovery of markers associated with epithelial injury and repair or acute inflammation, such as matrix metalloproteinases, kinases, caspases, cytokines, eicosanoids, hormones, or other molecules that could be definitively traced back to gut pathogenesis or dysfunction.
  • Examination and discovery of markers indicating the functional status of the gut’s ability to absorb, transport, and secrete major nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, and fatty acids.
  • Analysis and identification of hormonal markers involved in autonomic, neuroendocrine functions of the digestive system relevant to gut function or dysfunction making them applicable to the goals o the RFP.
  • Elucidation of systemic markers that influence or are associated with linear growth or cognitive development in children where the markers have purported or well‐defined linkages to malnutrition or gut health.

FOA: Biomarkers of Gastrointestinal (Gut) Function and Health

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