Two Academy Members Win Gates Awards

Members employed at Weill Cornell Medical College were each awarded $100,000 grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations initiative.

Academy members Carl Nathan and Kyu Rhee, both at Weill Cornell Medical College, were each awarded $100,000 grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations initiative to encourage bold and unconventional ideas for global health. The grants will provide continued support to the researchers’ promising and innovative global health research projects.

Nathan’s project, “Senescent and Rejuvenated Mtb Subsets on Exit From Latency,” and Rhee’s “Metabolosomes: The Organizing Principle of TB Latency,” are two of nine grants to receive new funding from the foundation. In 2008 and 2009, respectively, Nathan and Rhee received initial $100,000 grants. The new awards represent “next stage” funding for Grand Challenges Explorations grants that have shown progress in their initial grant period and that align with the Gates Foundation’s strategic priorities.

Nathan and his lab will study the genetic mechanism by which tuberculosis emerges from its latent state into an infectious and symptomatic disease. Specifically, they are testing the idea that tuberculosis exits dormancy by dividing asymmetrically, so that one progeny cell inherits most of the oxidatively damaged proteins and the other is spared. Blocking this process could aid treatment.

Rhee and colleagues are testing the theory that Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the causative agent of tuberculosis, utilizes specific protein-based structures called metabolosomes to enter into, maintain, and exit from latency.