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article imageGates launches not-for-profit biotech arm

By Tim Sandle     Jun 24, 2018 in Science
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have launched a not-for-profit biotechnology company. The Medical Research Institute’s goals are to eradicate malaria, accelerate the end of the tuberculosis epidemic, and end diarrheal deaths in children.
The company will be called the Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute, and it has already begun undertaking some preliminary activities ahead of an official launch. Further plans for the company were unveiled at the BIO International Convention, which took place in Boston during June 2018.
The convention represents over 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in more than 30 countries. There is a strong focus on research and development, especially in the biotech arena in relation to research into medicines and vaccines for disease like malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhea. These are serious global diseases, resulting in millions of deaths each year through out world.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate the development of novel drugs and vaccines for diseases that remain major causes of mortality, poverty, and inequity in developing countries. As it stands, a host of new ideas for innovative medicines do not get tested in pre-clinical or clinical trials because mainstream pharmaceutical companies do not think the medicines will become profitable. Here the free market fails in terms of finding medicinal products to meet human needs.
The Gates MRI will focus on translational product development, (defined as preclinical candidate selection to human/clinical proof of concept in the target population). Once a candidate has achieved human proof of concept, the plan is to partner the program with an organization that has late-stage development and commercial expertise. Late-stage development partners may include non-profit product development partners, Low/Middle Income Country (L/MIC) manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies.
Speaking with PharmaceuticalPhorum about the new venture, executive Susan Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation states: “What keeps me awake is we have all this capital, we have all this opportunity and we better get something done.”
She adds: “We better do some good in the world, or I will not feel good about leading in the Gates Foundation.”
The CEO for the company is Penny Heaton, who formerly worked at Novartis. She also has prior work experience at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The first project will leverage findings from a previous study that indicated re-vaccinating adolescents with the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine may provide sustained protection against TB infection. Globally rates of protection against tuberculosis infection vary widely and protection lasts up to twenty years. Unlike many other countries, U.S. has never used mass immunization of the vaccine, relying instead on the detection and treatment of latent tuberculosis.
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