Boston Childrens Hospital Receives Funding for Gut Function Biomarker Research

Boston, Mass.– Boston Children’s Hospital announced today that it will receive a $1.7M grant through the Biomarkers of Gut Function and Health program within the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative. This initiative was launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to overcome persistent bottlenecks preventing the creation of new and better health solutions for the developing world.  Christopher Duggan, MD, MPH, director of Boston Children's Hospital's Center for Nutrition in the The Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, will use the award to further his research in identifying and validating biomarkers of gut function in infants and young children in resource-poor countries. 

"We are very thankful for this grant and opportunity to help further research that could improve the health and development of children in the developing world, and one day, perhaps, the world over," says Duggan.

The goal of the Biomarkers of Gut Function grant program is to identify and validate biomarkers that can assess gut function and guide new ways to improve the health and development of children in the developing world.    

Duggan’s project is one of seven grants announced today. 

“Safeguarding the health of young children is one of the world’s most urgent priorities and a core focus of our work,” said Chris Wilson, director of Discovery & Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We hope the suite of grants announced today will give us a deeper understanding of the reasons underlying stunted growth in children in the developing world and how this can be predicted to guide new approaches to improve the health and development of these children.”

With colleagues in Tanzania and the U.S., Duggan will evaluate whether novel biomarkers of gastrointestinal absorption and barrier function relate to child growth and neurodevelopment among children in Tanzania. The children in the study are at risk of significant gastrointestinal problems relating to a high burden of infectious illnesses, and these can lead to being underweight, under height and having subpar neurodevelopmental.

"If we can validate the use of biomarkers it could lead to a number of treatment and prevention advancements," Duggan says. "Established blood markers could help identify infants at risk of poor growth, as well as design interventions to improve gastrointestinal health.  These might include development of more effective nutrient supplements, encouraging breast feeding, and even the development of vaccines against common childhood illnesses."

Duggan believes his research will be the capstone of a decade-long collaboration with doctors and researchers in Tanzania, a relationship he's developed though his work with the Harvard School of Public Health and Boston Children's Global Pediatrics Program (GPP). The GPP provides a forum for Boston Children’s physicians, scientists and educators to share the wealth of their experience and to contribute their expertise to addressing children’s health problems globally.

Research collaborators include Karim Manji, MD, MPH, and Said Aboud, PhD, of the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Wafaie Fawzi, MPH, DrPH, of the Harvard School of Public Health, and Wayne Lencer, MD, Jonathan Kagan, PhD, Mark Kellogg, PhD, and David Bellinger, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital.

About the Grand Challenges
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recognizes that solving our greatest global health and development issues is a long-term effort. Through Grand Challenges, the foundation along with other Grand Challenge partners such as USAID, Grand Challenges Canada, and Brazil’s Ministry of Health, are committed to seeking out and rewarding not only established researchers in science and technology, but also young investigators, entrepreneurs and innovators to help expand the pipeline of ideas to fight diseases that claim millions of lives each year.

Keri Stedman
Boston Children’s Hospital

Boston Children’s Hospital is home to the world’s largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since 1869. More than 1,100 scientists, including nine members of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 members of the Institute of Medicine and nine members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Boston Children’s research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Boston Children’s today is a 395-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care grounded in the values of excellence in patient care and sensitivity to the complex needs and diversity of children and families. Boston Children’s also is a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. For more information about research and clinical innovation at Boston Children’s, visit: