Grant Details

Grand Challenge Exploration Program

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    Funder Type

    Private Foundation

    IT Classification

    C - Funds little to no technology


    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


    Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) supports hundreds of early-stage projects including many ideas that have never before been tested and innovators from a wide range of disciplines and regions. The GCE initiative funds innovative ideas that could lead to new vaccines, diagnostics, drugs, and other technologies targeting diseases that claim millions of lives every year, as well as improvements and innovations in agriculture development and other priority areas of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    This call is soliciting concepts for contraceptive discovery platforms that can contribute to development of new methods suitable for women or men living in limited resource settings. Such platforms will be essential to support the foundations efforts to develop new methods that would be safe and effective for long-term regular use, in the form of injectables, implants, or regular oral contraception. We are not looking for new injectable formulations or implants using existing agents, nor are we looking for methods that could only practically lead to intermittent œon-demand or pericoital use (e.g., vaginal gels). Proposed research plans should align with this goal. Importantly, research proposed for funding should not be focused on a particular experimental agent, but rather on development and validation of a set of tools and technologies to address technical limitations in this field and that could be subsequently applied to a broader drug discovery and development program. While research related to a specific drug target or target class may be warranted if justification is provided, applications with a broader scope will be viewed favorably.

    Phase I proposals are evaluated based on the following criteria:
    • Topic Responsiveness How well does the proposal address a key need illustrated in the topic description?
    • Innovative Approach Does the idea offer an unconventional, creative approach to the problem outlined in the topic?
    • Execution Plan Is the work described feasible within the budget and time allocated for a Phase I project and, if successful would it have a clear need for further support?

    Phase II is an opportunity to provide additional support for projects that demonstrate innovative solutions towards the GCE goals and are critical to foundation strategies. Phase I awardees have one opportunity to apply for Phase II funding.

    Examples of fundable projects include:
    • Development of in vitro phenotypic screening methods that recapitulate key female or male reproductive processes (e.g. ovulation, follicular maturation, sperm maturation).These need not be immediately suitable for a high-throughput format, but should be focused on assays that would minimally enable screening of small compounds libraries;
    • Scale up and/or automation of existing laboratory assays for medium- to high-throughput and validation on a well-characterized pilot compound set or biological probe compounds;
    • Development of low-throughput in vivo screening methods using native or modified (transgenic, knockout) model organisms (e.g. zebrafish, C. elegans) to interrogate compound activity against key reproductive processes;
    • Development and validation of biochemical or other target-based assays, based on a clear explanation of why the proposed female or male target(s) would be viable and high value for contraceptive discovery;
    • Development of PK/PD approaches, including small animal models and in silico modeling, to enable rational medicinal chemistry;
    • Identification of methods to identify adjuvant compounds that could be co-formulated with existing hormones to mitigate undesirable side effects;
    • Development of preclinical in vitro or in vivo models to predict side effects (e.g., endometrial bleeding, testicular toxicity) associated with contraceptive agents; and
    • Development of tractable and relevant in vitro and small animal models of spermatogenesis and epididymal function

    History of Funding

    None is available.

    Additional Information

    Funding will not be considered for:
    • Applications focused on fundamental reproductive biology research;
    • Applications to support the development of a specific agent, rather than development and validation of a broader platform for contraceptive discovery; use of agents for chemical validation of such platforms, however, would be desirable;
    • Approaches suitable only for the development of vaginal contraceptives or barrier methods;
    • Approaches based on immuno-contraception, contraceptive vaccines, or antibody-based approaches;
    • Approaches focused on post-fertilization contraception;
    • Solutions that are not applicable to the developing world setting; or
    • Exclusively non-technological, social interventions


    Grand Challenges Explorations Program Staff

    Grand Challenges Explorations Program Staff
    500 Fifth Avenue North
    Seattle, WA 98109

  • Eligibility Details

    GCE is open to both foreign and domestic organizations, including non-profit organizations, for-profit companies, international organizations, government agencies and academic institutions.

    Deadline Details

    The deadline to submit applications was May 11, 2016. A similar deadline is anticipated annually.

    Award Details

    Phase I awards are up to $100,000 each and last up to 18 months. Phase II awards are up to $1,000,000 each and last up to 24 months.

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