Grand Challenges Explorations Grant

For Groundbreaking Research in Mosquitoes Artificial Blood Meals


The Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (IHMT) / Universidade Nova de Lisboa announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Henrique Silveira, researcher of the Global Health and Tropical Medicine R&D center, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Artificial diets complemented with a Human blood factor”, in collaboration with João Cardoso, Deborah Power and Rute Felix from the Centre for Marine Sciences (CCMAR) of the Universidade do Algarve.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore innovative ground breaking ideas directed at solving persistent global health and development challenges. Silveira’s project is one of more than 50 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 15 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To receive funding, Henrique Silveira and team demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea to address one of five critical global heath and development topics.

Silveira and colleagues from CCMAR recently identified a peptide in human blood that when it binds to a specific receptor in the malaria transmitting mosquito Anophelies triggers the initiation of oogenesis. The researchers now propose to use this factor to develop effective blood substitutes to significantly improve the success of artificial blood meals and improve sustainability of rearing mosquitoes in captivity a crucial step for research into malaria.

This finding is important "because mosquitoes require a blood meal in order to produce eggs. And if we need to produce mosquitoes in laboratory, in a large scale for the purpose of disease control or scientific research, we are always dependent on human or animal blood, which raises ethical and safety issues", said Henrique Silveira.

About IHMT and the team

The Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (IHMT) of Universidade Nova de Lisboa is a higher education and scientific research institution that aims at developing scientific knowledge for health problems related with the tropics. The research at IHMT is developed in the R&D center Global Health and Tropical Medicine (GHTM) – rated as ‘Excellent’ by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology.Henrique Silveira is Full Professor at IHMT and the scientific coordinator of GHTM. He holds a PhD from Imperial College, London, was a post-doctoral researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His research is centered on Plasmodium development in the mosquito, especially on how mosquito immunity can be manipulated to stop malaria transmission. Murine models, in vitro studies, proteomics and genomics have been applied in his Lab to dissect the mechanisms behind the mosquitoes response to infection and its modulation by anti-malarial drugs and immunomodulatory molecules.

About CCMAR and the team

The Centre for Marine Sciences (CCMAR) is an independent non-profit multidisciplinary research organization at the University of Algarve, with the mission of promote research and education on processes in the marine environment, with emphasis on biological interactions and the sustainable use of resources. CCMAR was classified ‘Excellent’ by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology.João Cardoso, a Research fellow at CCMAR is a graduate in Biotechnology Engineering and has a PhD in Biological Sciences from University of Cambridge (UK).Deborah Power is Professor of Biotechnology,at the Universidade do Algarve and visiting Professor at Shanghai Ocean University (China) and granted Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Gothenburg (Sweden).Rute Felix is a post-doctoral fellow at CCMAR, a graduate in Biology from the Universidade de Évora and holds a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (IHMT), Universidade Nova de Lisboa. The CCMAR research team has expertise in receptor evolution and function in invertebrates and vertebrates. Cardoso led the unique interdisciplinary project with Silveira that provided the data and conceptual basis for this study.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 1160 projects in more than 60 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.