June 05, 2014

Research Roundup: What we’re reading this week

Marissa Chmiola
Communications Officer

In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

Sarah Alexander—director of external relations for the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth—writes about the recent groundswell of momentum surrounding maternal and child health and the role research and development (R&D) can play in helping more babies have a healthy start to life.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo are bioengineering rice to transform it into a low-cost storage and delivery mechanism for drugs to combat cholera, rotavirus, and other infectious diseases and contagious illnesses. The researchers say that bioengineering the vaccines or antibodies into rice would allow them to be stockpiled and stored at room temperature, avoiding cold chain issues that exist with existing vaccines.

Geno de Hostos—director of research and preclinical development at PATH’s Drug Development Program—writes about how an integrated approach to tackling diarrheal disease can save thousands of children’s lives each year. He argues that R&D efforts focused on new drugs and vaccines hold tremendous potential, and there is a need to sustain appropriate funding to achieve more progress.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced funding for 55 projects through its Grand Challenges Explorations initiative program which funds innovative ideas to address global health and development problems. Grant recipients include several projects to improve condom design, “cologne” for cows that alters their smell to mimic humans in order to divert disease-carrying insects from people, and two projects to improve the vaccine cold chain, among others.

Dr. Margaret Hamburg—commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—writes on the FDA Voice blog about the World Health Organization’s passage of a resolution to strengthen regulatory systems. She notes the unique challenges and opportunities faced by regulators because of globalization and the extraordinary increase in the global supply of medical products, and she discusses the increasing efforts by nations to collaborate to share information and reduce system inefficiencies.

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