University of Idaho - I Banner

University of Idaho Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant For Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development

November 12, 2015

The University of Idaho is the recipient of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations initiative grant. Haiqing Sheng, a UI research scientist, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “CRISPR-Cas9 directed bacteriophage treatment of EPEC diarrhea.

The Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) initiative funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Sheng’s project is one of more than 50 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 15 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, Sheng and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas. The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in March 2016.

Disease-causing E. coli bacteria are responsible for more than 30 percent of infant diarrhea cases in South Africa, Kenya, Bangladesh, Brazil and Mexico. Known as the enteropathogenic E. coli, or EPEC, the bacteria cause several hundred thousand childhood deaths per year worldwide.

Sheng is a researcher in the School of Food Science, which is jointly operated by the UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Washington State University. He works for Scott A. Minnich, who is an expert in the pathogenic bacteria Yersinia and E. coli, and Carolyn Hovde Bohach, who is widely recognized for her work on E. coli O157, which can contaminate a wide range of foods from undercooked beef to vegetables and cause debilitating illness and death.

Sheng’s project will explore using probiotics to target the disease-causing E. coli to protect children’s health. The probiotics will combine a modified virus to kill the disease agents and a beneficial type of E. coli capable of removing the EPEC pathogens from children’s intestinal tracts. The probiotic will not disrupt their normal intestinal function and will be capable of preventing future infections.

About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a US $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 1160 projects in more than 60 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.


Bill Loftus
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
University of Idaho
(208) 885-7694

Haiqing Sheng

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at