Stanford Prof. and scientist in India recipients of Gates Foundation grants

The duo will get $100,000 each to further research projects.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: Two men of Indian origin – one who works at Stanford University, the other a scientist in India – were among the recipients of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation latest grants, given out last month as part of the Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) initiative, which promotes research in health-related issues around the world.

Manu Prakash, a Stanford University assistant professor of bioengineering, and HLL Lifecare Ltd. employee Abi Santhosh Aprem, will receive $100,000 to further their respective research projects, the Foundation announced on November 20.

Prakash was awarded a grant to continue his research in finding new ways to detect and treat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). He, along with co-recipient Judy Sakanari of the University of California at San Francisco, will develop a relatively inexpensive electromagnetic technology that can detect parasitic worms which infect humans, thus making diagnosis and treatment faster and increasing the survivability of such diseases.

Their research will also help in the creation of electronic bandages, which can transmit a patient’s tissue data and track worm movement within the patient in order to help doctors remove the parasite faster and better treat the condition.

Prakash is a 2002 graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, where he majored in computer science and engineering. He earned his Ph.D. in 2008 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and has had three scientific studies published by peer-review journals since 2007.

Aprem received a GCE Phase II grant to continue his work in developing IntraUrine Devices (IUDs) that contain special polymers, making them highly effective as a means of contraception. Aprem is currently an employee of HLL Lifecare Ltd., a Kerala-based firm that specializes in manufacturing contraceptive pills and goods, such as condoms.

In a statement to The Hindu, Aprem explained that the polymer he is working on is Copper T, which is already a popular component of contraceptive goods out in the market. Aprem’s IUD will slow the release of copper ions, which cause uncomfortable side effects for women, while still maintaining the polymer’s contraceptive potency.

Through the GCE grant program, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has given $100 million to helping scientists around the world fight some of the deadliest diseases known to man. The winners of this year’s grants were selected from a pool of over 2,700 applicants, spread across 14 countries worldwide. Eighty-one projects in total were selected, and all will receive $100,000 in grant money.

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