In 2003, the Gates foundation infused new vigour into global health efforts by declaring that the 21st century's "grand challenges" included developing new vaccines and overcoming drug resistance. This new grand challenges initiative, launched by a collaboration of top global chronic disease experts, identifies priorities in tackling diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and explains in detail how research should be directed to meet each challenge (a challenge was defined as a critical barrier that if removed would help solve an important health problem).

To distill the range of opinions and priorities, the coordinators sought input from 155 stakeholders from different countries and disciplines. The initiative requires the participation of agencies like the WHO, individual governments, and non-governmental organisations as well as civil society and business if it is to succeed. The authors point out that the Gates initiative was linked to large funding, whereas this project will rely on multiple funding agencies to coordinate on these priorities.