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Bill Gates supports LiU project

Maria Lerm and her tuberculosis research, is the recipient of 100,000 dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The grant is to be used to test her novel and bold idea about how tubecle bacteria hide from antibiotics.

The donation stems from the Grand Challenges Exploration in Global Health programme, a five-year, $100 million initiative of the Gates Foundation to promote innovation in global health. If the project is successful Maria Lerm, a research associate in medical microbiology, can expect to receive at least one million dollars in further funding.

“The winners of these grants are doing truly exciting and innovative work,” said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Programme. “I’m optimistic that some of these exploratory projects will lead to life-saving breakthroughs for people in the world’s poorest countries.”

Tuberculosis has not been seen as a problem in Sweden for many decades, however around the globe an estimated 1,6million annually die from the disease. The biggest threat is the one third of the world’s population who carry a latent form of the disease, in other words they are infected but the disease never breaks out. Latent infections in individuals suffering other illnesses is the main underlying reason for many strands of the tubercle bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics.

“the belief used to be that latency is something that develops over a long time. Our belief is that latency develops in a matter of days through the bacteria hiding inside the white blood cells whose function is to eat the bacteria” says Maria Lerm.

The research group is now going to investigate if their hypothesis is true by conducting a series of experiments whereby the white ’eating’ cells grown in the laboratory are infected with bacteria. The long term vision is to develop new treatments and pharmaceuticals aimed at latent tuberculosis.

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is a different kind of funding source than the Swedish research community is used to, it emphasises innovative and ground breaking research rather than base its decisions on old merits.

This recent call was brought to the attention of Maria Lerm through ResearchResearch, an international database for research funding available to all researchers at LiU through the Grants Office.


Page manager: therese.winder@liu.se
Last updated: 2009-06-03