Touro University California Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant For Groundbreaking Vaccine Research

Date: May 14, 2012
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Vallejo, CA – Touro University California announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Alison McCormick, Associate Professor at Touro, College of Pharmacy, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled "Plant-Produced Synthetic RNA Vaccines," which will use tobacco plants to produce much needed vaccines.

Grand Challenges Explorations funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Dr. McCormick’s project is one of over 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Our goal is to develop a rapid and inexpensive way to make a new kind of vaccine in tobacco plants,” said Dr. McCormick. “This goal is directly relevant to the Grand Challenge objective of improving “synthetic biology” by using a living plant system to create and assemble complex molecules. Our hope is to turn tobacco into a medicine-making factory, and be able to create new and effective vaccines.”

To receive funding, Dr. McCormick and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and nutrition.

“Grand Challenges Explorations encourages individuals worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas where creative, unorthodox thinking is most urgently needed,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We’re excited to provide additional funding for select grantees so that they can continue to advance their idea towards global impact.”

About Grand Challenges Explorations:

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 600 people in 45 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 and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.