The Center for Global Health at the University of Virginia School of Medicine announced today that it will receive funding through the Biomarkers of Gut Function and Health program within the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the initiative to overcome persistent bottlenecks preventing the creation of new and better health solutions for the developing world.
Dr. Richard L. Guerrant, founding director of the Center for Global Health, will continue to pursue a research project, “Novel Metabonomic Biomarkers of Gut Function and Health: Modeling Enteropathy and Field Validation.”
Guerrant, the principal investigator of the project, notes that the effort facilitates the discovery of new and existing biomarkers of intestinal dysfunction, or enteropathy, that signal problems with children’s normal growth and development. This will allow researchers to assess innovative interventions that will improve children’s health and long-term outcomes.
“This project brings together exciting new collaborations with colleagues in England as well as with colleagues at several collaborative sites in Africa, South America and Asia," said Guerrant, Thomas H. Hunter Professor of International Medicine.
The goal of the Biomarkers of Gut Function grant program is to identify and validate biomarkers that can assess gut function and guide new ways to improve the health and development of children in the developing world.
Guerrant’s project was one of seven grants announced today.
“Safeguarding the health of young children is one of the world’s most urgent priorities and a core focus of our work,” said Chris Wilson, Director of Discovery & Translational Sciences at the Gates Foundation. “We hope the suite of grants announced today will give us a deeper understanding of the reasons underlying stunted growth in children in the developing world and how this can be predicted to guide new approaches to improve the health and development of these children.”
U.Va.’s Center for Global Health has spent more than three decades seeking to better understand and prevent early childhood diarrhea and enteric infections. The effort has produced pioneering data demonstrating the infections’ devastating long-term effects – Guerrant notes that infections in the first two years of life can stunt a child’s growth by 8 centimeters by age 7 and reduce cognitive ability by as much as 10 IQ points.
The Gates grant will allow the center and the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health to build upon their ongoing work to assess established and novel biomarkers to better understand and prevent environmentally caused enteropathy. By identifying children at risk and assessing interventions to improve their health, the center is making a difference in the lives of children around the world.