ASU has just announced that it has received a Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will support an innovative global health research project conducted by Associate Research Professor Rosemarie Hartman and Professor Seth Rose, both from the department of chemistry and biochemistry. Their project is titled "Long-Acting Insect Repellents for Prevention of Malaria."

Hartman and Roses' project is one of 65 grants announced by the Gates Foundation in the fifth 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 16 countries on 5 continents. The initiative is highly competitive, receiving more than 2,400 proposals in this round.

To receive funding, Hartman and Rose showed in their application how their idea falls outside current scientific paradigms and might lead to significant advances in global health.

They plan to prepare skin-bonding insect repellents and test them for efficacy and safety. If successful, the repellents will remain on the skin for two to three weeks following application and will conveniently provide continuous, effective protection against mosquitoes.

Hartman explains that, "Mosquitoes that transmit malaria cause nearly one million deaths per year, mostly of children under age five. We are very grateful for the support of our work by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and we hope that our project will be successful in generating a way for families to protect themselves."

Malaria causes an average loss of 1.3 percent of annual economic growth in countries with intense transmission. It traps families and communities in a downward spiral of poverty, disproportionately affecting people who cannot afford treatment or who have limited access to health care. Malaria has lifelong effects through increased poverty and impaired learning. It cuts attendance at schools and workplaces. However, it is preventable and curable.

The technology will also be of interest to the Special Operations Military Forces who operate in countries with intense malarial activity. These operatives often have imminent, threatening situations to deal with, activities that may compete with remembering to pop anti-malaria pills. A lotion containing repellent that would be slowly released over the course of three weeks, and that could be applied in advance of their operation, would be ideal.

Hartman and Rose say the repellent molecule will attach to the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis (the skin's surface) and will remain in place for three weeks during which time the repellant is released. Attachment to the skin surface may prevent the permeation of repellent into lower layers of the skin and consequently repellent is not expected to be absorbed into the bloodstream. The fact that the repellent will work 24/7 is also a significant advantage over other measures currently in use in developing countries such as mosquito bed nets and spraying insecticides inside huts and houses.

"These are bold ideas from innovative thinkers, which is exactly what we need in global health research right now, " said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation's Global Health Program. "I'm excited to see some of these daring projects develop into life-saving breakthroughs for those who need them the most."

Source:
Jenny Green
Arizona State University

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