UC-CEAS Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant

University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant For Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development

Date: 5/9/2012 1:00:00 PM
By: Tom Curtis

Cincinnati– University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Carlo Montemagno PhD., Dean and Geier Professor of Engineering Education of the College of Engineering and Applied Science and Professor of Biomedical Engineering, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Dose-sparing, high efficacy vaccine delivery using pH-sensing active microcapsules”.

Dean Montemagno

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

“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.”

To receive funding, Dean Montemagno 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. Applications for the currently open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9, will be accepted through May 15, 2012.

Oral vaccine provides a promising platform for the people in developing countries because administration through oral route does not require trained personnel. Although considerable efforts have been devoted to develop oral vaccines, only a limited number of oral vaccines are available due to the instability of antigens in the GI tract and the continuous microbial interaction, which requires large dose of antigens to induce protective immunogenicity. Therefore, the challenge is to develop a new vaccine delivery system not only to increase stability of vaccines against inactivation by gastric acid, but to show a rapid release behavior with an enhanced uptake by Peyer’s patches or other lymphoid tissues of the lower GI tract.

Carlo Montemagno of the University of Cincinnati in the U.S. proposes to develop hollow microcapsules with pH-responsive macropores for oral vaccine delivery. The hollow microspheres are designed to have macropores at neutral pH to enhance easy vaccine loading. Upon exposure to low pH of gastric acid they shrink to close the pores as a result of pH responsive shrinkage behavior of the material. When the vaccine-embedded particles have been through the stomach, they swell to reopen the pores in response to pH increase of the intestine, thereby maximizing the delivery efficiency of functional vaccine particles to intestinal cells. Since the pore size is controlled by the environmental pH, this delivery vehicle is expected to stabilize vaccines at low pH by closing pores and facilitate a rapid release of vaccines in a controlled way at neutral pH by reopening pores. If successful, this research is expected to contribute to the developments of highly immunogenic oral vaccine and vaccine formulation, leading to potential for vaccine dose-sparing via an alternative administration route and method.

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.

About the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science
The College of Engineering and Applied Science, CEAS, provides an array of complementing programs that spans the gap between science and application. With strong research programs, internationally renowned cooperative work experiences, and a long history of educational excellence in technology and engineering, the college delivers unparalleled opportunities for our graduates.

With approximately $27,000,000 in annual research expenditures and 200 doctorate, masters, and Masters of Engineering degree graduates per year, UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science has extensive research and development capabilities. CEAS also has over 130 PhD level faculty whose research results in the issuing of approximately 25 invention disclosures and patents each year.