The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today will start a $100 million fund to nurture unorthodox approaches to global health, inviting scientists to bid for small, quickly awarded grants.
While other philanthropies and government entities have dabbled in backing offbeat medical experiments, the Gates initiative is among the richest and most ambitious donor-backed programs of this kind.
The initiative follows two disappointments in large trials whose results were reported recently. The trials showed that the cervical diaphragm and a vaccine developed by Merck & Co. failed to prevent infection with the AIDS virus. If the new tack by the world's biggest private charity bears fruit, it could pave the way for similar moves by other grant providers.