Explore New Solutions in Global Health Priority Areas – Novel test for cervical cancer

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At this time, we are only accepting proposals for this topic on the five (5) specific challenges listed below. When you apply, you will see the list of challenges from this call; please select the appropriate challenge for your proposal.

This call for ideas is part of the 17th round of Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE). Over the past eight years of GCE, we have experimented with a mix of topics – broad, open topics that leave much to the innovators’ imaginations, and narrow, focused topics that provide a specific toolset or criteria – covering everything from new therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics to financial services for the poor and agricultural tools for smallholder farmers. One consistent lesson we have learned is that the world never seems to run out of great ideas. To elicit more of these great ideas without limiting creativity and boldness, we are continuing to set forth a series of challenges that remain broadly unsolved in the areas where we work. Here we provide a bit of guidance around what we will and will not fund, but leave the solution itself open to your imagination.

Above all, our goal is to harness advances in science and technology to save lives, and all of our investments are driven by the need to develop and apply solutions that can be deployed, accepted, and sustained in the developing world.

The challenges laid out below fit squarely within our focus areas and identify gaps in knowledge or technology that, if understood and developed, could launch us forward quickly to save lives and improve the quality of life for the worlds’ poorest.


To encourage innovators around the world to think outside the box and potentially address challenges outside their primary field of work, we are posing a short and concise list of key challenges that remain unmet by the world’s greatest minds. We ask that applicants review our priority funding areas for additional information and consider ideas that can be sufficiently tested within the scope of a GCE Phase I award ($100,000 USD over 18 months). While these are big challenges and we don’t expect complete solutions here, we expect proposals to clearly outline success metrics to help us understand whether the idea will ultimately be transformative. We seek ideas that are “off the beaten track,” daring in premise, and clearly different from the approaches currently being developed or employed.

Novel test for cervical cancer

High-throughput and low-cost point-of-care/contact tests are needed by cervical cancer prevention programs that use HPV mobile screening campaigns. Clinically-validated nucleic acid biomarkers offer high sensitivity for diagnosing women with cervical cancer or pre-cancer (histologically confirmed CIN2+ or higher lesions) but suffer from low to medium specificity, resulting in additional resources to identify those who are harboring or at risk of developing cancer. We seek biomarkers that can be measured in simple-to-collect cervical, vaginal and urine specimens to diagnose women with cervical cancer or pre-cancer (histologically confirmed CIN2+ or higher lesions) in a screening population. Preferred biomarkers will have preliminary clinical evidence that targeted biomarkers are non-inferior to current validated biomarkers, and can be reliably measured in less than two hours with minimal instrumentation and operator processing.

Successful proposals will:

  • Clearly describe how the idea, if successful, wouldhelp solve one of the challenges described in the call;
  • Be directly relevant to the developing world (e.g. low-cost, useful across multiple geographical and cultural settings, self-sustaining);
  • Have a clear and testable hypothesis and include an associated plan for how the idea would be tested or validated;
  • Yield interpretable and unambiguous data in Phase I, in order to be considered for Phase II funding.

We will not fund:

  • Ideas that do not address one of the key challenges described in this call;
  • Ideas or solutions not aligned with the Gates Foundation’s Global Health priority areas and strategies listed above;
  • Ideas without a clearly-articulated and testable hypothesis;
  • Ideas not directly relevant to developing countries.
  • Ideas for which a relevant indicator of success cannot be demonstrated within the scope of the GCE Phase 1 award ($100,000 over 18 months);
  • Approaches that represent incremental improvements to conventional solutions (e.g., research of current methods for vaccine discovery, development and delivery intended to expand, improve or integrate existing technologies or tools);
  • Basic research without clear relevance to the goals of this topic;
  • Solely behavioral change/educational initiatives (e.g., training programs, scholarships, education programs);
  • Solely infrastructure or capacity-building initiatives;
  • Approaches that present unacceptable downstream safety risks (e.g., as a barrier to product development)

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