Do you have an infectious diseases research idea for a resource-constrained setting that jumps off the page?  

Are you interested in engaging the public and soliciting public support for your research through crowdfunding?

TDR Global is partnering with SESH to build capacity for crowdfunding among a group of low- and middle-income country* researchers focused on infectious diseases. Crowdfunding for infectious diseases research is both a science and an art – one must have both a compelling research question and also a clear way to effectively communicate this with the public. For example, Stephanie Bowers used crowdfunding to successfully raise a quarter of a million dollars for global health projects, reaching over 7,000 children. Our team will identify selected individuals and build their capacity to use crowdfunding related to infectious diseases in low- and middle-income countries(LMICs).

We define LMICs according to the World Bank definition. A list can be found here.


Many exceptional researchers in low- and middle-income countries focused on infectious diseases of poverty have compelling scientific ideas, but lack the institutional support necessary to apply for research grants. Crowdfunding now makes it possible for researchers to directly seek support from the public. The purpose of this TDR Global project is to identify individuals with promising infectious diseases research in LMICs to build capacity for crowdfunding to support research. Our expert team will provide open access tools and tailored guidance in order to help you build an effective crowdfunding pitch. The end goal is for the researcher to be more effective in crowdfunding through public engagement. 

Who can join this project

Anyone who is a citizen of an LMIC AND living in an LMIC is eligible to participate. We are particularly interested in ideas from women. Research questions should respond to country health research priorities.

Format for submissions

Send us less than 1200 words exclude references in English that describe the following:  

(1) scientific question and hypothesis; 

(2) significance of the project; 

(3) relevance to the public; 

(4) personal motivation for research and personal connection to the disease and geographic location; 

(5) areas you would like to request mentorship.


The project has three stages: 

(1) an open challenge contest to solicit infectious diseases research ideas in LMICs; 

(2) a capacity building workshop to help individuals gain skills and hone their message;

(3) a crowdfunding pilot to seek a limited amount of money (10,000 USD – 50,000 USD) for local research projects. 

Deadline for submissions is June 30th. 

See more details below:

  • 2019


All submissions that are deemed excellent by the steering committee will receive a commendation from the TDR Global and SESH organizing team. A selected group of semi-finalists will be further vetted by the organizers and then invited to a two-day capacity-building workshop in Geneva, Switzerland. These individuals will receive further training about the science and art of crowdfunding. Selected finalists will then launch their crowdfunding campaigns and be connected to thought leaders, potential funders, and potential mentors. Criteria for evaluation include compelling science, capacity for public engagement, and personal connection to the infectious disease topic. A distinguished Steering Committee will oversee challenge progress (see below).

TDR Global

TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, is a global programme of scientific collaboration that helps coordinate, support and influence global efforts to combat infectious diseases of poverty. Established in 1975, TDR is co-sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), and is hosted at WHO. For more information, visit TDR Global is a community of passionate scientists and experts working with TDR to support global research on infectious diseases of poverty.


SESH, Social Entrepreneurship to Spur Health, is a partnership between universities focused on using crowdsourcing methods to improve health. SESH was founded in 2012 and had organized over 50 crowdsourcing challenge contests. SESH partnered with TDR to organize the Women Leaders in Global Health Challenge in 2018. 

Please submit your entries


    1. Are you giving grants for infectious diseases research?

    The purpose of this challenge is to build capacity for crowdfunding in infectious diseases.  We will not be giving grants for infectious diseases research.

    2. What is an innovation challenge?

    An innovation challenge is an open call to solicit creative ideas. Challenges have been widely used by governments, private foundations, and others to identify compelling ideas. More details about innovation challenges in health are available here

    3. Who is supporting this challenge?

    This crowdfunding activity is organized in partnersh​​ip with TDR Global, a global community of scientists and experts working with TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, and SESH, Social Entrepreneurship to Spur Health. Our team has expertise in facilitating the communications and public engagement that are necessary for crowdfunding.

    4. I have a whole research team. Can I still apply as an individual? 

    Yes, but you need to clarify who is on the research team and ensure that the proposed research project is feasible.

    5. Does my research project have to be approved by an IRB?

    At the stage of submitting an idea, we only require that you have a local IRB that would be willing to review the project. All projects will need to receive IRB approval prior to crowdfunding launch.

    6. Which crowdfunding platform will be used?

    There are many different crowdfunding platforms which each have their own strengths and weaknesses, dependent on organizational status, location, and focus. We will help individuals to find a platform that is appropriate for their research study. One example is CaringCrowd®, focused on projects with health outcomes. This site has a high success rate (82%) and has raised approximately 2 million USD in donations over the past four years.

    7. Does it matter if I have research grants or other research infrastructure?

    This project is open to anyone, regardless of existing grants. The project needs to have sufficient infrastructure to complete the proposed research study.

    8. Which infectious diseases are eligible?

    We will focus on infectious diseases of poverty. According to TDR, "neglected infectious diseases (NIDs)" include: dengue/severe denque; rabies; chagas disease; Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness); leishmaniases; cysticercosis/taeniasis; dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease); echinococcosis; foodborne trematodiases; lymphatic filariasis; onchocerciasis (river blindness); schistosomiasis; soil-transmitted helminthiases; buruli ulcer; leprosy (Hansen disease); trachoma; yaws." For more information about infectious diseases of poverty, see here.

    9. How does crowdfunding work? 

    Several open access resources for helping people to crowdfund already exist. See below:

    1) Guide to Scientific Crowdfunding (Vachelard et al, PLoS ONE, 2016):

    2) Scientific Crowdfunding Guide (from Experiment):

    3) Public Health Guide (from CaringCrowd):

    10. What kind of infectious diseases research is preferred?

    We will accept any kind of infectious diseases research in an LMIC setting. This could include epidemiology, basic science, social science, implementation science, or crowdsourcing research. More details about crowdsourcing research can be found here.

    11. What qualifications are needed to apply

    There are no restrictions on those who apply. Postdoctoral fellows and junior researchers are eligible.

    More Questions? 

    Email us at

      Steering Committee

      Kedest Tesfagiorgis (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Dan Wu (The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine), John Brennick (J&J and CaringCrowd), Phyllis Awor (Makerere university), Mia Hoole (BecauseStories), Noel Juban (University of the Philippines), Selina Lo (The Lancet, United Nations University Malaysia, University of Sydney ), David Routh (University of North Carolina), Joseph Tucker (University of North Carolina/The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine), Pascal Launois (TDR), Shufang Wei (SESH), Stephanie Bowers (Jake’s Diapers), Don Mathanga (University of Malawi), Mary Ann Lansang (TDR Global and University of the Philippines), Chelsea Deitelzweig (The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine/coordinator)

        Partner Organizations