Dr. Arunprakash Karunanithi, Assistant Professor in the department of Civil Engineering

University of Colorado Denver announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Arunprakash Karunanithi, Assistant Professor in the department of Civil Engineering, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Environmental Impact Minimization of Vaccine Supply Systems.

“It is incredibly exciting to receive this highly competitive award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” says Dr. Karunanithi. He adds, “It will be a rewarding experience to utilize science to propose solutions to real-world problems. This grant provides us the opportunity to develop and implement much-needed immunization programs in low- and middle- income countries with minimal resource consumption and environmental impact.”

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and persistent global health and development challenges. GCE invests in the early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to solve the problems people in the developing world face every day. Dr. Karunanithi’s project is one of over 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Investments in innovative global health research are already paying off,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We continue to be impressed by the novelty and innovative spirit of Grand Challenges Explorations projects and are enthusiastic about this exciting research. These investments hold real potential to yield new solutions to improve the health of millions of people in the developing world, and ensure that everyone has the chance to live a healthy productive life.”

To receive funding, Dr. Karunanithi and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a creative idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and communications. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10, will be accepted through November 7, 2012.

Millions of children in low-and middle-income countries do not have access to vaccines that prevent life threatening disease. A main reason is that the current vaccine supply systems are inefficient and are constrained by high costs and resources. They are also energy intensive and cause severe environmental and health impacts. In this project, Dr. Karunanithi’s research group will develop a tool that will enable public health agencies in developing countries plan and implement low-cost localized immunization programs that will target the most vulnerable population but also have reduced environmental and health burdens.

Dr. Karunanithi directs the green engineering and systems analysis laboratory at the University of Colorado Denver, which focuses on developing eco-friendly products and systems analysis models such as environmental life-cycle assessment.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 700 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 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.

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