Commentary: Gates Foundation supports some bold ideas

This editorial appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune.

Can malaria-carrying mosquitoes be infected with a fungus to suppress their sense of smell and their ability to sniff out humans to bite?

Is it possible to turn tomatoes into antiviral drug-delivery systems that would help people in poor countries fight off deadly infectious diseases?

Will shooting a laser at a person's skin before giving a vaccination boost immunity?

Maybe. Maybe not. But the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is willing to spend $100 million to find out if any one of these or 78 other "unorthodox" ideas will pan out. It's all part of the foundation's goal of finding innovative ways to improve the lives and health of people around the world.

The foundation calls it the Grand Challenges Explorations grant program, but it could just as easily be called the Wild Ideas That Just Might Work Awards.

According to the foundation's Web site, it's looking for proposals that take "inventive approaches to daunting issues" – and not ones that would likely find funding through usual channels. Applicants only have to fill out a two-page form outlining their idea, with no preliminary data required, and they are encouraged not to use professional jargon.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Tacoma) News Tribune.