The five-year grants are designed to encourage scientists to pursue bold, unconventional ideas that could lead to future breakthroughs.
The projects focus on way to prevent and treat infectious diseases, such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia and diarrheal diseases.
Eric Lam at Rutgers University in New Jersey is exploring tomatoes as a antiviral drug delivery system. Boitumelo Semete at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa is attempting to attach "sticky nano-particles" to tuberculosis-infected cells and slowly release anti-malarial drugs.
Researchers at the University of Exeter in Devon, England, will seek to build an inexpensive instrument to diagnose malaria by using magnets to detect the waste products of the malaria parasite in human blood.
Mei Wu at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School will be getting a grant to see if shooting a laser at a person's skin before administering a vaccine can enhance immune response.
The Seattle foundation announced the grants Monday to researchers in 17 countries. This is the second round of Grand Challenges Explorations grants; the first round were announced in October 2008. The foundation is accepting applications for the third round until May 28.
Meanwhile in Lincoln, Neb., CEO Jeff Raikes outlined the foundation's goals to spend $73 million over the next five years to help small farmers in impoverished countries.
Raikes spoke Monday at water conference at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The Nebraska native and former Microsoft executive said the foundation sees agriculture as a "compelling solution" to poverty. He says three-quarters of the world's people who live on a dollar or less a day live in rural areas and that agriculture production is a "solution that's been ignored."