Georgia Institute of Technology Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Funding

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Georgia Institute of Technology announces that it will receive funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables researchers worldwide to test unorthodox ideas that address persistent health and development challenges. Dr. Mark Styczynski, assistant professor in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, will pursue an innovative global health research project, titled “Pigment-Based, Low-Cost, Portable Nutrition Status Tests.”

Grand Challenges Explorations funds scientists and researchers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Styczynski’s project is one of 108 Grand Challenges Explorations grants announced in November 2011 as part of Round 7 of the program.

“We believe in the power of innovation—that a single bold idea can pioneer solutions to our greatest health and development challenges,” said Chris Wilson, Director of Global Health Discovery for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Grand Challenges Explorations seeks to identify and fund these new ideas wherever they come from, allowing scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs to pursue the kinds of creative ideas and novel approaches that could help to accelerate the end of polio, cure HIV infection, or improve sanitation.”

Projects that are receiving funding show promise in tackling priority global health issues where solutions do not yet exist. This includes finding effective methods to eliminate or control infectious diseases such as polio and HIV as well as discovering new sanitation technologies.

To learn more about Grand Challenges Explorations, visit

Styczynski’s project proposes to create portable, low-cost, bacteria-based genetic circuits to measure blood micronutrient levels without requiring sophisticated instrumentation to perform or read the test. These circuits would provide an inexpensive, rapid method to diagnose nutrition levels, such as vitamins and minerals, in the field.

“Sophisticated equipment is not easily operated in the field, which means that samples must be sent to regional labs for nutritional analysis, resulting in delays of potentially life-saving treatment,” Styczynski says. “We are looking to enable more point-of-care diagnostics using synthetic biology to eliminate the long wait and enable more rapid diagnosis and treatment of those with deficiencies.”

Styczynski received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2007. He joined the faculty at Georgia Tech in 2009 after a postdoctoral appointment at the Broad Institute, a world-renowned genomic medicine research center located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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