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Vanderbilt University Medical Center among top 100 proposals for MacArthur Foundation $100 million grant

Feb. 19, 2020, 12:50 PM


by Bill Snyder

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today unveiled a grant proposal from Vanderbilt University Medical Center as one of the highest-scoring proposals, designated as the “Top 100,” in its 100&Change competition for a single $100 million grant to help solve one of the world’s most critical societal challenges.

VUMC’s proposal, called Project Remedi, for Repurposing Essential Medicines Internationally, aims to repurpose existing drugs for new uses in ways that can dramatically improve access to medicines by billions of people in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC’s) around the world.

100&Change was launched by the MacArthur Foundation in 2016 to stimulate philanthropic support for proposals that promise “real progress toward solving a critical problem of our time in any field or any location” and is a distinctive competition that is open to organizations and collaborations working in any field, anywhere in the world. Proposals must identify a single problem and offer a viable, pragmatic solution that promises significant or durable change.

From the Top 100, the foundation’s board of directors will select 10 finalists this spring. Over the summer, the finalists will work with an expert team to strengthen and revise their proposals, and in the fall the $100 million winning proposal will be announced.

“It’s an honor for the Remedi team to have made it to the Top 100, and we believe this confirms the promise of generic drug repurposing to efficient and widespread human health impact,” said Gordon Bernard, MD, Executive Vice President for Research for VUMC.

Project Remedi teams VUMC with the Aurum Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa, a leader in researching and implementing high-impact health care programs, and the University of Edinburgh’s Global Health Governance Program, which works with governments and other organizations to translate ideas into action, and Cures Within Reach, a Chicago-based drug repurposing nonprofit.


About Project Remedi and drug repurposing


Some medicines are so crucial to basic health that the World Health Organization posts them as safe and affordable on an Essential Medicines List (EML). One hundred essential medicines are already on pharmacy shelves in more than 80% of the world’s countries, yet these medicines are prescribed for only 200 out of 7,000 known human diseases.

There are few incentives to pursue new uses of generic EML medicines and even when evidence exists for a new therapeutic use of a particular drug, that knowledge does not rapidly or reliably reach the pharmacists, community health workers and patients who could benefit the most.

Yet few health care providers in these countries know that readily available treatments for these diseases are already on pharmacists’ shelves. “By finding many additional uses and generating substantially higher awareness among targeted practitioners, pharmacists and health workers, we offer a powerful, pragmatic way to affect change,” the proposal states.

VUMC holds the nation’s largest academic generic drug repurposing group and recently developed a novel way to accurately and quickly find new uses for existing medicines through its massive BioVU DNA databank. The Aurum Institute’s community-based sites and active partnerships throughout Africa, India and South America will validate new uses for vulnerable and marginalized populations while the University of Edinburgh will provide substantial global health governance expertise to help countries adopt new uses.

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