Meredith's research earns grant from Gates Foundation

J. Carson Meredith, professor and associate chair for graduate studies in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, has been awarded a Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Meredith will pursue an innovative global health and development research project titled “Pollen-Based Assays of Intestinal Mucus Water Content and Rheology.”

Grand Challenges Explorations funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how persistent global health and development challenges are solved. Meredith’s project is one of more than 60 GCE grants announced today.

Meredith’s work will focus on developing a rapid and low-cost diagnostic for childhood enteric diseases, such as diarrhea. These diseases are a worldwide problem and a leading cause of childhood mortality. Because children’s intestinal tracts are very different from those of adults, it is difficult for researchers to predict how their intestinal mucus layer will behave under stress. That mucus layer is critical to absorbing nutrients. If it’s damaged by disease, it won’t function as well, and endemic gastrointestinal diseases can result.

Meredith has proposed a novel, low-cost method to test the health of the mucus lining in children by using both natural and synthetic pollen particles.

“Nature provides great sources of complex microparticles that can be adapted for engineering applications,” Meredith said. “Pollen grains are covered with unique nanoscale spines that I believe will make them excellent but inexpensive sensors of mucus function.”

Pollen is sticky and edible, can survive in harsh environments and has a variety of spiny appendages, sizes and shapes. The first step of Meredith’s work will be to characterize how fast different synthetic pollen shells travel through viscous liquids that simulate what’s inside the gut. This part of the work will involve collaboration with Victor Breedveld, also a ChBE faculty member.

Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation since 2008. More than 1,070 projects in more than 60 countries have received GCE grants, and the program is open to all disciplines and organizations. The foundation is accepting applications for the current GCE round until Nov. 12. For more information about Grand Challenges Explorations, go to http://gcgh.grandchallenges.org/Explorations/Pages/Introduction.aspx.

Photo captions:

PHOTO 1: J. Carson Meredith has received a Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Photo by Jenna Leigh Studios.

PHOTO 2: Meredith’s work will focus on developing a rapid and low-cost diagnostic for childhood enteric diseases, such as diarrhea. Meredith has proposed a novel, low-cost method to test the health of the mucus lining in children by using both synthetic and natural pollen particles, such as sunflower pollen, seen here in an electron microscope image. Photo by Haisheng Lin.

Story by Brett Israel. Courtesy of Research News at Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Amy Schneider
School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
(404) 385-2299
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