The Haifa-based Technion – Israel Institute of Technology has been awarded a grant for a tuberculosis detection breakthrough as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Exploration program.

The foundation has committed $100 million to encourage scientists worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas to fight the world’s greatest health challenges through the Grand Challenges Explorations program, which was launched in 2008 to foster innovation in global health research. More than 1,140 Grand Challenge Explorations grants have been awarded to innovative, early-stage projects in more than 60 countries.

The Technion grant, whose specific amount was not announced, will go to Professor Hossam Haick of the Chemical Engineering Department and Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, who is developing cutting-edge biomedical technology, including a self-administered electronic patch for the detection of tuberculosis via skin.

“With the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we are developing an accurate, fast and inexpensive adhesive electronic patch that can diagnose tuberculosis. In this way we wish to increase the survival rate among tuberculosis sufferers and to stave off the spread of the disease. We hope that these steps will improve the democratization and accessibility of health services around the world,” Haick said.

More than 2 billion people around the world are estimated to have tuberculosis, and 10 percent of them experience active symptoms in their lifetimes. Some 95 percent of tuberculosis sufferers live in developing countries where inhabitants subsist on incomes of $1 per day.

The goal of Haick’s project is to develop a self-administered diagnostic method based on the adhesive patch. The diagnosis, which uses a skin sample, would take up to five minutes, and it would be less expensive and more accessible than the current diagnostic tools.