PHILADELPHIA – A University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine researcher has received a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will support an innovative global health research project conducted by James Shorter, MA, PhD, assistant professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics, titled “Unleashing Protein Disaggregases to Prevent HIV Infection.”
Shorter’s project is one of 78 grants announced by the Gates Foundation in the fourth 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. The grants were provided to scientists in 18 countries on six continents.
To receive funding, Shorter submitted a two-page application that showed how his idea falls outside current scientific paradigms and might lead to significant advances in global health. The initiative is highly competitive, receiving almost 2,700 proposals in this round.
The project will focus on how HIV is drastically affected by protein fibrils found in semen. To do this, Shorter will engineer enzymes to disassemble these fibrils. The ability to reverse fibril formation and block sexual transmission of HIV will provide a powerful weapon against the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.
“The Grand Challenges Explorations award from the Gates Foundation provides a hugely exciting opportunity for our laboratory to pursue a new idea to prevent HIV infection,” notes Shorter.
“The winners of these grants show the bold thinking we need to tackle some of the world’s greatest health challenges,” said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program. “I’m excited about their ideas and look forward to seeing some of these exploratory projects turn into life-saving breakthroughs.”
Shorter received his undergraduate degree from Keble College, University of Oxford and his Ph.D from University College London.
The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 16 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $398 million awarded in the 2012 fiscal year.
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