The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced that it has bestowed 76 grants of $100,000 each to scientists who have come up with unconventional ways to destroy infectious diseases in the developing world. Below are some of our favorites.
1. A Drink to Keep Malaria at Bay
What if immunity to malaria was as simple as downing a chocolate-y drink every day? Steven Maranz of Weill Medical College thinks the key to lifelong malaria immunity might just lie in providing kids with high levels of flavanols—compounds found in chocolate, green tea, and shea nuts—via a beverage.
2. HIV Immunity via a Ring
For many diseases—diarrhea, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and pneumonia among them—mucosal surfaces are the point of entry. That's why Emmanuel Ho of the University of Utah is trying to attack HIV infections where they start. The researcher's intra-vaginal ring is designed to slowly release the HIV peptide gp120 and the cytokine IL-12, creating a sustained immune response against the disease.
3. Exercise-Induced Immunity
Conventional wisdom tells us that regular exercise keeps the immune system in top form, and now Kate Edwards of the University of California, San Diego, wants to test the theory. She believes short spurts of cycling and weight-lifting could strengthen the body's response to a pneumonia vaccine administered directly afterwards.
4. A Mini Microscope for Malaria Detection
Instead of drawing blood to detect malaria, Rebecca Richards-Kortum of Rice University thinks a mini microscope placed on the skin could measure light scattered by malaria-infected blood. It's a painless, quick, and biowaste-free to test for the disease.
5. The TB Breathalyzer Test
Breathalyzers: They're good for more than deciding whether you can drive home from the party. William Royea of Next Dimensions Technology hopes to develop a breath analyzer that uses chemical films to detect changes in electrical conduction that come as a result of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by tuberculosis.