Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant


The Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Patrick Degnan, Assistant Professor of Microbiology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled CRISPR capture: surveillance of AMR in mobile microbiomes.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) supports innovative thinkers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Degnan's project is one of more than 55 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 17 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, Degnan and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of six critical global heath and development topic areas. The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in February 2017.

Degnan, in collaboration with Professor of Anthropology Rebecca Stumpf and Associate Professor of Microbiology Rachel Whitaker, will work to better understand how antimicrobial resistance (AMR) spreads in different environments by examining the flow of AMR genes in microorganisms between adjacent human and chimpanzee populations in eastern Africa. Their research will eventually allow for more targeted measures to slow the spread of AMR in human and agricultural pathogens.

"We can't just focus on human pathogens anymore. We can't just focus on animal pathogens or plant pathogens, but we have to think about infection biology as a whole," said Degnan. "To be able to understand how to stop transmission, we need to find out what transmission is, and our research is really geared towards that."


About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 1228 projects in more than 65 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.

About the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

The Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology is dedicated to transformative research in agriculture, human health, the environment and food production, with program areas in systems biology, cellular and metabolic engineering and genome technology. The IGB's mission to advance life sciences research and stimulate bioeconomic development is fulfilled in a number of ways, including pioneering research in diverse challenges such as the progression of cancer, the ecological impact of global change, tissue and organ growth, and the diversity of animal behavior. Learn more at

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