Mississippi State University announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Haibo Yao, assistant research professor, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled "Development of Portable Technology for Rapid Aflatoxin Detection in Maize Grown in Developing Countries."
Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Yao's project is one of over 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
To receive funding, Yao and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and nutrition. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9, will be accepted through May 15, 2012.
Aflatoxin contamination in harvested maize, peanuts and other food crops is regarded as one of the most important global food safety problems. This project aims to develop portable technology for rapid detection of aflatoxin contamination in maize. The target end users for this technology are farmers on small farms in the rural areas of developing countries. With this technology, farmers will be able to screen single ears of maize for aflatoxin contamination.
The principal investigator, Yao, is an assistant research professor in the Geosystems Research Institute and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station at Mississippi State. Yao is stationed at the MSU facility located at Stennis Space Center. He has a doctorate in agricultural engineering, with research interests focusing on using imaging and spectral technology for food and feed safety inspection, as well as other agricultural applications.
About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 600 people in 45 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.
Mississippi State University is classified as a very high research activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In FY 2010, the university secured $201 million in external research funding. MSU is the only Mississippi university with the "very high research" designation.