Grand Challenges: Ending the Pandemic Threat - A Grand Challenge for Universal Influenza Vaccine Development


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation



To find a game changing, universal solution to all these challenges, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Page Family are launching the "Universal Influenza Vaccine Development Grand Challenge" during the centenary year of the 1918 flu pandemic. The goal of this Grand Challenge is to identify novel, transformative concepts that will lead to development of universal influenza vaccines offering protection from morbidity and mortality caused by all subtypes of circulating and emerging (drifted and shifted) Influenza A subtype viruses and Influenza B lineage viruses for at least three to five years. It is envisaged that such a universal influenza vaccine would address the threat from both seasonal and pandemic influenza, thus alleviating the need for annual seasonal influenza vaccination campaigns, averting significant global morbidity and mortality, and better preparing the world for the next influenza pandemic.

The Foundation is looking for ideas that are bold and innovative, bridging the funding ‘valley of death’ to translate these novel approaches into products ready for human clinical trials. 'They are also looking for interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas from outside the traditional influenza research community. Third, they seek completely transformative approaches rather than incremental research.

Examples of researchers and disciplines they would like to see further integrated and supported include computational and systems biologists, virologists, immunologists, bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, deep learning, machine learning, the HIV/AIDS and cancer immunotherapy research communities, etc. Fundamentally, they are looking for unconventional approaches that effectively drive or harness immune responses in desired ways and develop universal influenza vaccines that are ready to start clinical trials by 2021.


Grand Challenges is open to both foreign and domestic organizations, including non-profit organizations, for- profit companies, international organizations, government agencies and academic institutions. Individuals and organizations classified as individuals for U.S. tax purposes are not eligible to receive an award from the foundation as part of the Grand Challenges initiative.

Maximum Project Value

This request for proposals intends to fund pilot awards of up to USD $2 million over two years, with the anticipation that one or more pilot projects, on demonstration of promising proof-of-concept data (e.g., from animal models), may be invited to apply for a full award up to USD $10 million. Full awards would be intended to fund IND-enabling and clinical studies.

Indirect Costs


Project Duration

two years


If College-level review is required, your College will communicate its earlier internal deadlines.

Internal Deadline

Letter of Inquiry: PI to submit coy of application along with a complete OR5 form to:

External Deadline

Letter of Inquiry: PI to use the foundation application portal to submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI).

All open grant programs are listed on the Grand Challenges Website. Navigate to the call you are interested in and click "Apply Now." Applications must be submitted through the application portal. E-mailed applications will not be accepted.

More information on this grant opportunity can be found on the sponsor website.

Internal Deadline

If Invited: PI to submit a copy of complete application one week prior to sponsor external deadline to:

External Deadline

If Invited: We expect to communicate to all applicants by August 2018, although this date may change depending on the number of applications received. All applicants will be notified by email in a timely manner of any change to the notification and full proposal deadline dates. If you are selected to submit a full proposal, you will receive an invitation email from the foundation. The invitation email will provide an access code and will invite you to an application portal to download the proposal templates and relevant materials to submit a full proposal to the foundation.

For Questions, please contact

Please direct all questions about this initiative, selection criteria or application instructions by e-mail to the following address:

Office of Research

Ornella McCarron, Grants Officer
Office of Research Services
519-824-4120 x52832

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