Vito receives €80,000 grant from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


Vito researcher Patrick De Boever will use the money from the American charitable foundation to work on a non-invasive test that traces the neurobiological consequences of stress on children

US collaboration

A project by the Flemish Institute for Technical Research (Vito) has been selected as a laureate of the Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Researcher Patrick De Boever will receive a grant worth about €80,000 to work on a saliva test that could trace the consequences of stress on children’s neurobiological development.

“Stress at a very young age initiates biological changes in the body of a child, which could lead to abnormal neurobiological development,” Vito explained in a press statement. “The goal of this research is to examine whether saliva can serve as a new, non-invasive – unlike blood tests – and suitable source for the creation of an extensive biological profile showing the effects of current and past exposure to stress.”

Possible consequences of early exposure to stress are the development of cardiovascular diseases, cognitive difficulties, depression and hypertension.

De Boever is working with an American expert on neurobiological development, Professor Stacy Drury of Tulane University in New Orleans. “They will use advanced molecular techniques to improve the health and neurological development of children all over the world,” said Vito.

Grand Challenges Explorations awards grants to support researchers with ideas for more efficient solutions for global health and development challenges. De Boever is the third Belgian to get the prestigious grant. He received an initial grant of $100,000, about €80,000. The most successful projects can have a follow-up grant of up to $1 million, or about €800,000.