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May 9, 2012

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Alain Labrique, PhD, director of the Johns Hopkins University Global mHealth Initiative, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “mTIKKA - Harnessing a Mobile - Cloud System to Achieve Universal Vaccination.”
Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Labrique’s mHealth Initiative project is one of over 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants announced today 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, Labrique 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. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9, will be accepted through May 15, 2012.  

Alain Labrique serves on the faculty of the Bloomberg School of Public Health and is the founding director of the JHU Global mHealth Initiative, a university-wide consortium of faculty and students involved in mHealth research and innovation. An epidemiologist with a background in infectious diseases and molecular biology, Labrique has been engaged in the design and conduct of large, population-based research studies in rural South Asia for over a decade, testing strategies to improve maternal, neonatal and child nutrition and survival. Labrique and his colleagues at the JiVitA Maternal and Child Health Research Project, working in close partnership with the Government of Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and social enterprise partners mPower-Health, have studied the emergence and impact of mobile phones as part of a complex rural health ecosystem.

mTikka is a Virtual Vaccine Registry that will be pilot tested in rural, remote areas in Bangladesh, where vaccination coverage is 44 to 60 percent lower than the national average. It aims to remove the barriers to achieving high immunization coverage in rural Bangladesh by utilizing an electronic, cloud-based system for infant enumeration and registration, vaccination record keeping, incentivizing, and interactive knowledge and belief assessment about vaccination. mTIKKA is designed to focus on the poorest and hardest-to-reach segments of the population, helping to identify (in real-time) regions where vaccine coverage is limited, and to permit community-based, targeted interventions aimed at increasing immunization coverage. mTikka will also provide an alternative to traditional record keeping by allowing parents, providers and vaccination workers access to immunization records, whenever and wherever the information is needed, using simple, ubiquitous technology. Future directions for mTikka include incorporation into national and regional health record systems to support performance tracking and supply-chain management.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, over 600 people in 45 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 $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to $1 million.

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