Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Ralph A. Tripp, a professor of infectious diseases, will lead a team in pursuit of innovative global health and development research on norovirus.
Norovirus is a highly infectious disease and can be transmitted from an infected person, contaminated food or water or contact with contaminated surfaces. The illness can be serious for young children and older adults—and causes up to 200,000 deaths a year in children under 5 years of age in developing countries.
Tripp and his research team are receiving $100,000 to engineer mammalian cell lines that support norovirus and related enteric virus replication by silencing non-essential virus resistance genes in vaccine cell lines. While researchers have made advances in studying the virus and identifying some control measures, no efficient cell line exists currently to support studies for vaccine and therapeutic development.
“Norovirus is a common cause of acute gastroenteritis in humans, with greater than 22 million cases occurring in the United States annually,” Tripp said. “There are numerous challenges in culturing human noroviruses, a feature that has hindered vaccine and therapeutic development.”
Tripp’s study has the potential to provide novel platform enabling tools, specifically fully permissive mammalian cell lines that will fundamentally change disease intervention strategies for human norovirus and potentially other enteric viruses.
“Our research team has received several Gates Foundation grants to develop enhanced vaccine cell lines to facilitate the eradication of polio virus and to control other vaccine-preventable diseases-including measles virus and rotavirus,” he said. “We have successfully developed these enhanced vaccine cell lines using RNA interference platform-enabling technology and are confident we can apply this to meet the needs for norovirus.”
The project team is comprised of faculty from UGA and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Victoria, Australia. The project’s co-investigator is Carl Kirkwood, an associate professor at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. Kirkwood leads the Enteric Virus Research Group, which is internationally recognized for its contributions to the understanding of enteric diseases, including norovirus and rotavirus.
Grand Challenges Explorations funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Tripp’s project on “Engineering Mammalian Cell Lines to Support Human Norovirus and Related Enteric Viruses” is one of more than 60 Grand Challenges Explorations grants announced Nov. 4 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 1,070 projects in more than 60 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications—on a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas—and no preliminary data is required. Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to $1 million. Applications for the current round are being accepted until Nov. 12 at http://gcgh.grandchallenges.org/Explorations/Pages/ApplicationInstructions.aspx.
UGA College of Veterinary Medicine
The College of Veterinary Medicine, founded in 1946 at UGA, is dedicated to training future veterinarians, conducting research related to animal and human diseases and providing veterinary services for animals and their owners. Research efforts are aimed at enhancing the quality of life for animals and people, improving the productivity of poultry and livestock and preserving a healthy interface between wildlife and people in the environment they share. The college enrolls 114 students each fall out of more than 1,000 who apply. For more information, see www.vet.uga.edu.