LSTM's Edward Thomsen awarded prestigious Grand Challenges Exploration grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

News article 17 Nov 2016

LSTM’s Edward Thomsen in the Department of Vector Biology has been awarded a prestigious Grand Challenge Exploration (GCE) grant, an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) which aims to foster innovation to solve key global health and development problems.

Announced earlier this week, Edward’s grant is among 56 awarded as part of the 17th round of GCE, and was selected from over 14000 applications from around the world. The award of US$100,000 over the next 18 months will allow the team to build an open-source software platform tailored to support efforts to eliminate malaria by combining the best features from two existing disease data management platforms.

The Disease Data Management System (DDMS) is an existing platform used and trusted by entomologists to monitor insects that carry diseases, such as mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasites, and can record things like abundance of vectors as well as track insecticide resistance and infectivity. The District Health Information Software 2 (DHIS2) is a second platform which is used more widely by the global health community. It is used by many ministries of health as their national disease database and contains information from health centres, but does not at present include additional data relating to vector control strategies, such as information about vector populations, bednet distribution and figures for indoor residual spraying.

Edward and his team will now work with the University of Oslo, who developed DHIS2, to add some the entomological elements of the DDMS systems functionality into the DHIS2 platform. He said: “It is a great honour to have been selected to receive this award, which will enable us to amalgamate the best functionality of two, very successful, existing platforms. We are hoping that the work can make the platform even more valuable as a decision making tool, providing a more extensive picture of malaria transmission. It will enable policy makers and those planning control programmes to make evidence based decisions and better use the resources available in the most effective manner.”

The performance of this new integrated platform will be evaluated over 12 months in a malaria control programme in Zambia. Edward continued: “My hope will be that if this proves a success in the case of entomology data, additional DDMS functionality can be integrated with the DHIS2, creating an enhanced platform can be used for any other infectious disease, enabling the best possible use of, what is often, a very limited health spend.”

The Gates Foundation launched the Grand Challenges Explorations in 2007 to engage more of the world’s innovators more quickly. Twice each year, Grand Challenges Explorations invites high-risk, high-reward proposals on a range of challenges. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded, and successful projects have the opportunity to receive follow-on funding of up to US$1 million.