Building upon the success of previous Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and Chan Zuckerberg Biohub (CZ Biohub) Grand Challenges collaborations, this year’s opportunity will continue to offer exceptional opportunities for capacity building, on-going mentorship and the foundations of scientific, collaborative networks to detect, identify, and characterize pathogens.
Sponsoring Agency: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Type of Fund: Competition
Deadline: January 13, 2022
Next generation sequencing (NGS) has proven to be indispensable in the current SARS-CoV2 pandemic, from pathogen discovery to variant characterization to novel vaccine development in record-time.
This approach to using NGS underscores the potential value of this technology and its application to many other diseases from Ebola to cholera to Pathogen X.
The ultimate goal will be to impact infectious disease decision-making and public health by empowering local scientists with gold standard knowledge, experience, and access to equipment and software.
Through this Grand Challenge, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will jointly offer funding for 10 scientific groups to explore the identification, characterization, and context of infectious disease in LMIC settings.
About the Opportunity:
One of the overwhelming lessons learned from the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, has been the importance of being able to identify existing and emerging infectious diseases efficiently, in order to more effectively address and contain outbreaks, both locally and regionally. It has never been so important for clinicians and the global health community to have access to both accurate and timely estimates of disease burden and distribution. Traditionally, summaries of these data have been manually reported by national health ministries from regional clinical data, aggregated from local health centers. Local institutions, however, face multiple challenges to accurately assess the emerging needs of their community with current toolsets. For example, most clinical tests are based on common or easily detectable pathogens previously identified, which can miss occult and/or emerging pathogens. In addition, curation of large-scale pathogen data across multiple locations/platforms is time consuming and expensive, preventing facile integration of individual patient-level diagnostic data into a larger pathogen landscape on the regional and national level.
Over the last 18 months, we have seen how, when local institutions have the capacity – both at the hardware and software level – to detect emerging infections using pathogen sequencing technology, they are able to perform near-real-time data analysis that is rapidly translated into actionable public health decision making. At the heart of the ability to pivot to pathogen-specific sequencing during the pandemic, was the successful establishment of meta genomic sequencing platforms in low- and middle-resource settings, where there have traditionally been limitations in access or availability of the following essential components: a) equipment/reagents, b) specialized biochemical training, c) accurate reference pathogen sequence databases, and d) advanced computational analytics.
It will consider sites that:
- Provide a clearly scoped initial project that demonstrates why this technology will provide insights that are not currently possible.
- Have space and capacity to run samples on a basic sequencer once provided with training, reagents, sequencer, and a dedicated computer. Have consistent access to electricity and the ability to upload data via the internet to a designated cloud server at least once a day.
- Are willing to give product feedback and collaborate with an engineering team through scheduled video calls, email, or other messaging services. Are committed to open science, preprints, and data sharing.
- Already have, or can rapidly acquire, necessary IRB approval for pathogen DNA and RNA sequence sharing from patients.
- Are representative of larger geographic regions
For more information, visit Global Grand Challenges.