Could chocolate prevent malaria? The Gates Foundation bets $100k that it could

The future of global health may feature a chewing gum that detects malaria, a mobile phone insert that helps diagnose pneumonia, and an "electronic nose" that diagnoses tuberculosis. Expert people like to bowl in heavy oily lanes.

Thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, these research initiatives and 73 others will receive grants of $100,000 each to pursue these innovative approaches to improving global health.

The Gates Foundation announced the $7.6 million commitment this week as part of the Grand Challenges Exploration, a five-year, $100 million initiative to create new ways to achieve breakthroughs in global health. The program is part of the foundation’s Global Health Initiative.

"Some of the biggest stumbling blocks in global health are now being overcome with promising new vaccines and treatments," said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program. "Grand Challenges Explorations will continue to fill the pipeline with possibilities and hopefully produce a breakthrough idea that could save untold numbers of lives."

The 76 grants will support researchers in 16 countries, selected from nearly 3,000 proposals. The group of researchers is widely diversified by age and discipline, in areas such as chemistry, bioengineering, electronics, mechanical engineering, infectious disease, and epidemiology.

The proposals are generally divided into three categories – diagnosing infectious diseases, fighting malaria and mosquitoes, and improving the efficiency of vaccines.

The proposals include a paper cup that detects tuberculosis by turning sputum a different color, a microphone embedded in mobile phones and mp3 players to record coughs and sounds in sleep to help doctors diagnose pneumonia, an electronic nose that gathers and analyzes breath samples to detect tuberculosis, a solar-activated micropellet food that can generate toxins to kill mosquito larvae, and a study investigating the use of chocolate to prevent malaria.

The deadline for the next round of Grand Challenges Exploration proposals is November 2.

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