A few success stories

Development of osmotic ballasts to enable saltwater-based energy storage
Dr. Orlando Coronell led a study that explored a promising new type of battery technology called a concentration gradient battery (CGB). This type of battery has the potential to mitigate factors that contribute to pollution and climate change by leveraging sustainable saltwater-based energy. Technology explored through this GIL offers an alternative to traditional batteries (such as the lithium-ion battery) by using affordable, abundant and non-hazardous materials.

Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on behavioral, social and structural factors in South Africa
A team at UNC-Chapel Hill led by Dr. Audrey Pettifor collaborated with the South African Medical Research Council-funded Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transition Research Unit of the University of the Witwatersrand to understand the impact of COVID-19 on social determinants of health and examine access to information, prevention tools and vaccines. The study involved two population-based surveys to assess COVID-19 prevention behaviors and impacts of COVID-19 on socio-economic and mental health outcomes in rural Mpumalanga, South Africa. Overall results suggest that most people had access to masks and complied often with COVID-19 prevention measures, and the team identified opportunities for better vaccine communication.

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What Makes A Successful Gillings Innovation Laboratory Program Proposal?

Get insights for your proposal.

Accelerating Translation Of Discoveries

One of the primary goals of Gillings Innovation Labs is to accelerate the translation of public health discoveries and knowledge into practice. To facilitate this process, we encourage use of open-source technologies that permit broadest access to methods and results across geographic, disciplinary and other boundaries. We also encourage GIL participants to share tools and disseminate project findings widely and through a variety of mediums.

Collaborating Across Disciplines

Gillings Innovation Labs engage interdisciplinary teams, train future public health leaders, and encourage connections among academic scholars, communities, governments, and organizations committed to preventing and solving public health threats. Proposals that aim to build linkages between community and clinical settings are especially encouraged.

Implementation Science

Gillings Innovation Labs should endeavor to expedite solutions to public health challenges through effective implementation and dissemination of interventions in high-impact settings. For more information, see Implementation Science.

Global And Local Focus

Challenges to public health occur at local, state, regional, national and international levels. Solutions to challenges at any of those levels may be proposed, as well as solutions to challenges that cross the barriers of geography, environment, culture, income, and education, or solutions that have benefits that extend beyond the populations in which they are initially demonstrated.

Training The Next Generation of Public Health Leaders

We encourage proposals that include participation and engagement of UNC students and trainees.

A Sustainable Approach

Gillings Innovation Labs are well-suited for projects that are early-stage and higher-risk and are consequently less competitive for common funding mechanisms. GIL awards are intended to kick-start initial support for a promising area of public health research or an innovative public health solution, and should facilitate awardees’ ability to acquire additional funding after the GIL award period has ended.

Awarded Gillings Innovation Labs

From active school-wide call for proposals; funded by the Gillings Gift

Round 8 (2023-2025)

Harnessing large language models to bring shared decision-making counseling for HIV prevention to scale
Lauren Hill, PhD, Principal Investigator

Artificial Intelligence Based on Automated Visual Evaluation for Cervical Cancer Prevention
Jennifer Smith, PhD, Principal Investigator

Utilizing Reinforcement Learning with Collective Expert Feedback to Advance the Use of Generative AI for Primary Care
Sean Sylvia, PhD, Principal Investigator

The Use of Artificial Intelligence for Computational Efficient Predictions of Air Quality to Design Effective Policy for Vulnerable Communities
William Vizuete, PhD, Principal Investigator

Knowledge-enhanced Foundation Models for Brain-related Disorders
Hongtu Zhu, PhD, Principal Investigator

Leveraging generative AI in mobile health promotion programs: a use case for enhancing tailored messaging and engagement in a mobile healthy weight program.
Brooke Nezami, PhD, Multiple Principal Investigator
Deborah Tate, PhD, Multiple Principal Investigator
Carmina Valle, PhD, MPH, Multiple Principal Investigator

Special COVID-19 Round (2020)

Residence time and viability of coronavirus in airborne respirable particles in public spaces
Karstan Baumann, PhD, Principal Investigator

Getting Pediatric Vaccination Back on Track in the US
Noel Brewer, PhD, Principal Investigator

Leveraging Rural, Black Faith-Based Social Connections to Optimize COVID-19 Rapid Risk Communication Readiness
Lori Carter-Edwards, PhD, Principal Investigator

Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on behavioral, social and structural factors in South Africa: strengthening pandemic response in low resource settings
Audrey Pettifor, PhD, Principal Investigator

Household Transmission Modeling of SARS-CoV-2 in North Carolina
Kimberly Powers, PhD, Principal Investigator

Establishing a sentinel surveillance system for COVID-19 in North Carolina: using routine antenatal care visits to estimate real-time COVID-19 seroprevalence in diverse populations
Whitney R. Robinson, PhD, Principal Investigator

Pandemic Ethics Dashboard
Jim Thomas, PhD, Principal Investigator

Round 6 (2018 - 2019)

Development of Osmotic Ballasts to Enable Saltwater-based Energy Storage
Orlando Coronell, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator
Wei You, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator

Environmental Influences on Early Brain Development
Stephanie Engel, PhD, Principal Investigator

Improving Diabetic Eye Disease Screening and Management Through a Novel Integrated Care Approach
Emily Gower, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator
Seema Garg, MD, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator

System Science to Improve State Planning on Opioid Addiction and Overdose
Stephen Marshall, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator
Kristen Hassmiller Lich, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator

Prenatal Treatment to Prevent Mother to Child Transmission of Hepatitis B Virus in the DRC: The Arresting Vertical Transmission of Hepatitis B (AVERT-HBV) Study
Steven Meshnick, MD, PhD, Principal Investigator

Round 5 (2017 - 2018)

Causal Inference Research Laboratory
Stephen Cole , PhD, Co-Principal Investigator
Michael Hudgens, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator

Transformative Use of Chitosan as a Coagulant-Flocculant and Filter Aid to Improve Drinking Water
Mark Sobsey, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator
Jamie Bartram, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator

Circulating MicroRNAs as Novel Biomarkers of Arsenic-Associated Diabetes
Miroslav Styblo, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator
Praveen Sethupathy, PhD (UNC Genetics), Co-Principal Investigator

Precision Public Health: Enhancing Connections to Develop Just-In-Time Adaptive Intervention Strategies
Deborah Tate, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator
Carmina Valle, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator

Round 4 (2016 - 2017)

Automated Monitoring, Managing, and Messaging for Peer Support in Diabetes Management
Edwin Fisher, PhD, Principal Investigator

Accelerating Transdisciplinary Collaborative Clinical Care Locally and Globally to Improve Diabetes Outcome
Penny Gordon-Larsen, PhD, Principal Investigator

Self-Collection to increase access to cervical cancer screening and reduce health disparities in Kenya
Jennifer Smith, PhD, Principal Investigator

Novel Tools to Track Land-Applied Biosolids
Jill R. Stewart, PhD, Principal Investigator
Michael D. Aitken, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator

Round 3 (2010 - 2012)

Staying One Step Ahead of Deadly Viruses Combating childhood diarrhea by designing "super antigens"
Ralph Baric, PhD, Principal Investigator
Eric Donaldson, PhD, Former Principal Investigator

Identifying Toxic Compounds "Body-on-a-Chip" offers an innovative alternative to traditional testing
Rebecca Fry, PhD, Principal Investigator

Microfinance and Health Pilot program seeks to reduce HIV risk and partner violence in young men
Suzanne Maman, PhD, Principal Investigator

Identifying Sources of Environmental Pollution Discovering where microbes originate can help to protect public health
Jill Stewart, PhD, Principal Investigator

Round 2 (2009 - 2011)

Removing Nitrogen, Recovering Energy from Hog Waste Managing swine waste is crucial for protecting air and water in NC
Mike Aitken, PhD, Principal Investigator

Innovative statistical approach to genetic association
Danyu Lin, PhD, and Fred Wright, PhD, Principal Investigators

Getting Safe, Effective Drugs to Those Who Need ThemPharmacoepidemiology evaluates drug benefits and harms
Til Stürmer, MD, MPH, Principal Investigator

A Seamless, Accessible, 21st-Century Global Classroom Tapping into the learning styles of "Millennials" can benefit public health education
William Zelman, PhD, Principal Investigator

Round 1 (2008 - 2010)

Linking Local, Sustainable Farming and Health Can "eating local" address obesity, the environment and economic viability?
Alice Ammerman, DrPH, Principal Investigator

Defeating Respiratory Disease in Children The search for an affordable, multivalent and stable vaccine
Ralph Baric, PhD, Principal Investigator

Mapping Tropical Disease: A Most Critical First StepLaboratory for molecular surveillance of tropical diseases opens in the Congo
Steve Meshnick, MD, PhD, Principal Investigator

Caring for the Mentally Ill in North Carolina A local challenge becomes research prototype
Joseph Morrissey, PhD, Principal Investigator

Managing Disease Through Linking Data Hospital and ambulance services may provide the missing link
David Richardson, PhD, Principal Investigator

Water-Testing for Contamination Goes PortableDetecting infectious disease at its source may save millions of lives
Mark Sobsey, PhD, Principal Investigator

Technology to Improve Understanding of Arsenic Some drinking water is shockingly high in contamination
Miroslav Styblo, PhD, Principal Investigator

Identifying Harmful Pollutants in City Air Worst pollutants often fly under the radar
William Vizuete, PhD, Principal Investigator

Solicited Awards

(very occasional, direct awards to address a pressing problem; funded by the Gillings Gift)

Innovative Clinical Trials Laboratory
Joseph Ibrahim, PhD, Principal Investigator
Funded: 2007

WaterSHED (Carolina Global Water Partnership)Partnership with USAID
Mark Sobsey, PhD, Principal Investigator
Funded: 2007

Comissioned Innovation Labs

(modeled after GILs; funded by nonprofits or other outside sponsors)

Going the "Last Mile" to Ensure Drinking Water SafetyUNC Water Institute Sponsored by IAMPO
Jamie Bartram, PhD, Principal Investigator
Funded: 2011

A Global Imperative: Healthy and Secure 0-2 Year OldsHigh-impact interventions can ensure the well-being of young children and their mothers Sponsored by ChildFund International
Peggy Bentley, PhD, Principal Investigator
Funded: 2010


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