5 May 2009

The Chinese University of Hong Kong Receives
US$100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for
Innovative Global Health Research by Professor Yangchao Chen

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) received world recognition for its efforts in combating flu epidemics in poultry and humans. Yesterday, the University acquired a US$100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for an innovative global health research project conducted by Professor Yangchao Chen, Assistant Professor at the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics. The research, titled ‘Generation of influenza-resistant chicken by triple combination lentiviral vector-mediated genetic modification’, is the only project in Hong Kong receiving support from the latest funding round of the scheme.

Professor Chen proposes developing a lentiviral vector that targets the entry and replication of influenza viruses in domestic chickens. His team plans to test the resistance of these genetically modified chickens to various influenza viruses in an effort to reduce the frequency of flu epidemics in poultry and, ultimately, in humans. His novel concept is considered to be falling outside current scientific paradigms and might lead to significant advances in global health.

‘It is my great honor to be awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As planned in my proposal, I will use my expertise in molecular biology and gene manipulation to explore an innovative way to fight flu pandemic,’ said Professor Chen.

Professor Chen’s project is one of 81 grant-receiving projects announced by the Gates Foundation in the second 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. With more than 3,000 proposals received, competition was highly rigorous. The grants were provided to scientists in 17 countries on six continents.

‘The winners of these grants are doing truly exciting and innovative work,’ said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program. ‘I’m optimistic that some of these exploratory projects will lead to life-saving breakthroughs for people in the world’s poorest countries.’

Professor Chen is the second CUHK scientist receiving a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges. Professor Samuel Sai-ming Sun, Emeritus Professor of Biology and Research Professor of Biology, is the other CUHK academic who received a five-year (2005-2010) grant of US$1 million to increase the nutritive value of rice from the Foundation’s Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a five-year, US$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 next round of Grand Challenges Explorations are being accepted through May 28, 2009. Grant application instructions, including the list of topic areas in which proposals are currently being accepted, are available at the Grand Challenges Explorations website.

Professor Yangchao Chen, Assistant Professor at the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, CUHK
Professor Yangchao Chen, Assistant Professor at the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, CUHK

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