NOV 26, 2014 12:00 AM PST

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Prof. Zvi Bentwich Receives Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grant

WRITTEN BY: Ilene Schneider
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) Professor Zvi Bentwich has received a Grand Challenges in Global Health Grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for his project in Ethiopia to wipe out parasitic worm infections. The funding will help support mass drug eradication efforts against these infections by implementing in parallel a health education campaign run by local students with the provision of clean water and sanitation facilities. Behavioral change and hygiene are essential for the eradication of many diseases.

Prof. Bentwich is a member of BGU's Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology , Immunology and Genetics and heads the Center for Emerging Diseases, Tropical Diseases and AIDS (CEMTA). His groundbreaking research in the 1990s uncovered a strong link between intestinal worms and immune system deficiencies, and he has been working to eradicate worms in Ethiopia ever since.

Bentwich will test his approach in an Ethiopian region with 30 schools, connected to a wider population of 200,000 people. Families will be treated with anti-parasitic drugs. Local students will be trained to provide health education, explaining the causes and symptoms of diseases, and how to avoid contracting them. The grant will also make it possible for the research team to provide water and latrines to schools. The effect of their approach on infection rates will be evaluated over an 18-month period.

The Center for Emerging Diseases, Tropical Diseases and AIDS was established in 2006 within the Faculty of Health Sciences at the BGU. This multidisciplinary center works to enhance existing scientific collaborations and facilitate new collaborations both inside and outside of Israel.

"We applaud Prof. Bentwich who has dedicated his career to solving the problems of Neglected Tropical Diseases," says Doron Krakow, executive vice president, American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, headquartered in New York City. "It is immensely gratifying to see that a prestigious grant organization such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recognizes the groundbreaking work our faculty is passionate about to bring hope to all corners of the world."

Grand Challenges has given out 1,689 grants in 80 different countries across the globe. In October Grand Challenges launched a new series of initiatives.

This anniversary event, attended by scientists and researchers from around the world, celebrated a decade of progress since the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's launch of the initial Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative. This original US$450 million research initiative was created to catalyze scientific and technological innovation to achieve major breakthroughs in global health. The three new initiatives announced were:

All Children Thriving - focusing on developing new tools and holistic approaches to help mothers and children thrive in the developing world by ensuring a healthy birth for both mother and child and setting children on a path to healthy physical growth and cognitive development. All Children Thriving includes new initiatives and commitments from Grand Challenges Canada (Saving Brains); the Saving Lives at Borth partnership (including the US Agency for International Development, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada and the UK Department for International Development); the Governments of Brazil, India, and South Africa; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development - focusing on a rigorous understanding of women's and girls' needs and preferences and gender inequalities and supporting new approaches to promote women's and girls' empowerment that will enhance the ability to achieve multiple health and development goals.

Creating New Interventions for Global Health - focusing on accelerating the translation of original and innovative concepts for vaccines, drugs and diagnostics into safe, effective, affordable and widely used interventions for diseases in the developing world.
About the Author
Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
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