Reid awarded Grand Challenge

Western professor Dr. Gregor Reid and his Lawson Health Research Institute team have been named Grand Challenges Explorations winners, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The researchers, one of only three Canadian recipients, are the first London, Ont.-based team ever to receive funding from the foundation.

The project will study the impact of probiotic yogurt mixed with a nutrient-rich plant called Moringa on the health outcomes of pregnant women and their children. Reid’s work focuses on the benefits of bacteria in promoting nutrition and disease prevention. This study will investigate if those benefits can pass from mothers to their children. It will be based out of a newly opened yogurt kitchen in Mwanza, Tanzania, and will be part of the Western Heads East program.

“A lot of what happens later in life is impacted by the first thousand days – the nine months of pregnancy and the first two years after birth,” Reid said. “Much of the work of Gates Foundation is focused on that period of life, so it was a natural fit. We’re thrilled to be working with them.”

Reid is assistant director at Lawson, director of the Canadian Research & Development Centre for Probiotics at Lawson and a professor of Microbiology & Immunology and Surgery at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western.

Grand Challenges Explorations funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Reid’s project is one of more than 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants announced by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Grand Challenges Explorations encourages individuals worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas where creative, unorthodox thinking is most urgently needed,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We’re excited to provide additional funding for select grantees so that they can continue to advance their idea towards global impact.”

To receive funding, Reid and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and nutrition.  

Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, more than 600 people in 45 countries have received Grand Challenge Exploration Grants.