Gates Foundation Changes Strategy for Global Health Research

Bill Gates. Photo by: DfID / CC BY DfIDCC BY

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be scaling down the size of grants it extends to researchers under its new strategy for exploring and discovering new ways of addressing some of the world’s biggest health problems.

“We’ve changed the way we work,” Tachi Yamada, the foundation’s global health director, said, according to Seattle Times. “In the very earliest days, honestly I don’t know if we knew what we were doing. We were giving away money as fast as we could. … Now we’re trying to be more strategic.”

Yamada was speaking at the final conference for the Grand Challenges in Global Health Program, an ambitious initiative launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2003. The program has not been stopped but has taken up USD460 million of the foundation’s money to support 45 broad – and expectedly long-term – research endeavors that looked at various ways to improve global health.

Yamada explained that the foundation is now focusing more on technologies with the biggest near-term applications and health payoffs.

The foundation’s new strategy for its second generation program, dubbed Grand Challenges Explorations, is to provide smaller grants to more researchers. Additional funding will be provided for ideas and studies that appear promising. The goal of the new strategy is to spur innovation and produce quick results, the Seattle Times notes.

Steve Buchsbaum, the foundation’s deputy director for discovery, explained that committing large amounts of money over the past years has limited the foundation’s ability to quickly change course or embrace new approaches.

New grants for health projects

The foundation is providing 65 grants worth USD100,000 each for innovative health projects in the developing world as part of its Grand Challenges Explorations initiative.

The grants are supporting projects in 16 countries including a tuberculosis vaccine that can be eaten in a traditional Asian bean dish called natto and solar-powered therapeutic blankets of light for newborns suffering from jaundice. This the fifth round of grants of the initiative.

The Grand Challenges Explorations is a five-year, USD100 million initiative meant promote innovation in global health. Applications for the sixth round will be accepted beginning in March 2011.

Rizza Leonzon contributed to this report.

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  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.