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Queen Mary receives funding for medical research in Zambia

Queen Mary, University of London has received a $1.3million(US) grant for research in Zambia into intestinal diseases – conditions which affect most children in the developing world and can leave their growth stunted.

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The funding is through the Biomarkers of Gut Function and Health program within the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative. This initiative was launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to overcome persistent bottlenecks preventing the creation of new and better health solutions for the developing world. 

The grant will allow Dr Paul Kelly, Reader in Tropical Gastroenterology at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, part of Queen Mary, to carry out work in Zambia aimed at finding and evaluating candidate biomarkers of enteropathy (intestinal disease). A biomarker is a traceable substance that is introduced into an organism as a means to examine organ function or other aspects of health.

Children in developing countries almost universally have environmental enteropathy, a condition which leads to normally innocuous gut organisms passing into the systemic circulation and causing chronic immune activation, which leads to reduced growth during childhood. 

Dr Kelly said: “The work proposed is a three-stage study to find and evaluate candidate biomarkers of enteropathy, starting with discovery in adults, then confirmation in children and validation in healthy children in an impoverished community in Zambia.

“This research will at least yield new insights into environmental enteropathy and its consequences, and will deliver much needed robust evaluation of biomarkers which will allow assessment of scaled-up interventions in communities in Africa and Asia.”

The goal of the Biomarkers of Gut Function grant program is to identify and validate biomarkers that can assess gut function and guide new ways to improve the health and development of children in the developing world.   

Dr Kelly’s project is one of seven grants announced today. 

“Safeguarding the health of young children is one of the world’s most urgent priorities and a core focus of our work,” said Chris Wilson, Director of Discovery & Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We hope the suite of grants announced today will give us a deeper understanding of the reasons underlying stunted growth in children in the developing world and how this can be predicted to guide new approaches to improve the health and development of these children.”

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