University of Dundee

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awards National Phenotypic Screening Centre grant to develop a phenotypic assay platform for male contraceptive drug discovery.

16 Nov 2016

The University of Dundee announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project will enable a unique collaboration bringing together expertise at Dundee in male fertility and drug discovery to help identify possible new male contraceptive drugs.

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. The Dundee project, led by Professor Andrew Hopkins (Chair of Medicinal Informatics), Dr Paul Andrews (Director of Operations, National Phenotypic Screening Centre) and Professor Christopher Barratt (Chair of Reproductive Medicine and Director of the Reproductive Health Unit) is one of more than 55 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 17 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, the Dundee team and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of six critical global heath and development topic areas. The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in February 2017.   

Professor Barratt said, “This unique collaboration at the University of Dundee will begin to address an unmet medical and societal need for new male contraceptive drugs.”

Dr Andrews said, “The Grand Challenges Exploration funding will allow the development of high throughput imaging to measure the motility of human sperm and assess their functional readiness to penetrate the egg – both key aspects of sperm behavior (or “phenotype”) that are required for fertility. Once established, the assay platform will be used to screen large chemical libraries for agents that render sperm incapable of fertilisation.”

Professor Hopkins added, “This collaboration combines the male fertility expertise in theSchool of Medicine at the University and the world-class facilities we have at the National Phenotypic Screening Centre, which is based within the School of Life Sciences.”

Notes to Editors

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 1228 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 a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

The University of Dundee is one of the world’s top 200 universities and in 2016 was named Scottish University of the Year for the second consecutive year (Sunday Times Good University Guide). Dundee is internationally recognised for the quality of its teaching and research and has a core mission to transform lives across society.

Both Times Higher Education and QS World University Rankings have ranked Dundee best in the UK and one of the top 20 worldwide among universities under 50 years old. Our students also rate us very highly on student satisfaction – we are one of the UK’s top ten in the National Student Survey 2016, and first for personal development of students.

Dundee is the top ranked University in the UK for biological sciences, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, the major assessment of research quality.

See for further details.

The National Phenotypic Screening Centre (NPSC) was set up by the Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance (SULSA) with a £8M capital funding from the Scottish Government to provide state-of-the-art capabilities in the development and screening of physiologically-relevant assays for academia and allow close collaboration with industry. The main facility is in newly-refurbed labs within the School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee (working closely with other labs at the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford). The NPSC has world-class high throughput imaging platforms that can be applied to human, animal, and plant health challenges. More details can be found