The Grand Challenges Annual Meeting (19-21 October) brings together scientists, researchers, funders and policymakers from around the world to speed innovation for impact and create transformational solutions to address inequities in global health and development.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to circle the globe, the meeting – held virtually for the first time – will facilitate collaboration among key stakeholders to discover, develop and deploy the solutions needed to curb the virus, mitigate its impact, and prepare for future global health emergencies. Additionally, the meeting will explore how to harness the energy and learnings from COVID-19 to drive scientific progress against a broad range of global health and development goals.
Originally scheduled to be held in Delhi, this virtual meeting continues to be supported by key partners in India, including the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India (DBT) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The meeting is co-hosted by the Government of India, Grand Challenges Canada, the United States Agency for International Development, Wellcome and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver keynote remarks spotlighting India’s commitment to accelerate progress on public health goals through science and innovation.
In his keynote address on the first day of the meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated, “The future belongs to science and innovation, and these must be powered by the power of collaboration and public partnership. The Grand Challenges Programme works on this principle and has made commendable efforts towards human progress”. Commending India’s efforts, Bill Gates, Co-Chair & Trustee, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said, “India’s research and manufacturing capacity are critical for fighting COVID-19.”
Other health leaders from India speaking at the meeting include Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health and Family Welfare; Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology; and Balram Bhargava, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research.
While this year’s meeting is focused on addressing COVID-19, it also aims to use the momentum and urgency to stop this pandemic to address longstanding health and development challenges. Three new Grand Challenges are being launched this week to harness innovation around emerging technologies. Each of these initiatives will be anchored with local investigators and implementors closest to the problems. The three new challenges are:
a) Integrating tradition and technology for fermented foods for maternal nutrition: Challenge on the nutritional effects of traditional locally fermented foods to help investigators in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia build local capacity to investigate these foods as novel maternal nutrition interventions.
b) New approaches to integrating molecular surveillance into malaria control programmes: Challenge on new approaches to integrating molecular surveillance into malaria surveillance and programmatic decision-making in malaria-endemic countries.
C) Smart farming innovations for dmall-scale producers: Challenge on digital solutions to help address challenges facing small scale crop and livestock producer entrepreneurs, such as agricultural advisory, input supply, finance and market access.
Additionally, two fellowships were launched on 14 October to provide funding support to mid-career scientific researchers in low- and middle-income countries. One fellowship will be based in India and sponsored by the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology (DBT) in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This fellowship was announced by Secretary Renu Swarup. The second fellowship, based in Africa, was announced by Trevor Mundel (President of Global Health, BMGF) and is sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Annual Meeting will feature dozens of leaders from across the global health innovation landscape, as well as remarks from Gates Foundation leadership, including Bill Gates (Co-Chair & Trustee); Melinda Gates (Co-Chair & Trustee); Trevor Mundel (President, Global Health); and Mark Suzman (Chief Executive Officer).