Bethlehem, PA, USA] – Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Lehigh University announced today that Dr. Srinivas Mettu, an alumnus (PhD, 2012 with Prof. Manoj K Chaudhury) of the department is part of a team from The University of Melbourne that is a winner of a Grand Challenges Explorations grant - an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Professor Muthupandian Ashokkumar along with Dr. Srinivas Mettu and Dr. Francesca Cavalieri will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Edible Micro-Balloons for Nutrition Enhancement”.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) supports innovative thinkers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Prof. Ashokkumar’s project is one of 34 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 21 grants announced by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, Prof. Ashokkumar’s team and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of three critical global heath and development topic areas. The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in February, 2019.

The grant will allow the team to develop edible micro-balloons made from proteins that contain essential nutrients for adding to common foods. This can enhance the nutrition levels of everyday foods eaten by mothers and infants in developing countries helping in combating malnutrition. Encapsulating the nutrients, rather than adding them directly to food, may help keep them stable to promote their absorption in the body. It can also mask unpleasant tastes, and control the timing and location of nutrient release, which can increase their performance.

Dr. Srinivas Mettu is currently working as a Research Fellow in Prof. Ashokkumar's Sonochemistry lab at The University of Melbourne, Australia. Srinivas has been working at The University of Melbourne from 2013. He completed his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Lehigh University, USA in 2012. He worked as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Xerox Research Center at Webster (XRCW), NY from 2011 to 2013 before moving to Australia.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 1400 projects in more than 65 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times per year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.