Bill and Melinda Gates started a non-profit biotech to help develop treatments for malaria, tuberculosis, and diarrhea.
The non-profit is called the Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute. The team will support labs and biotech firms that work on solutions for these diseases.
Technically, the firm has been operating for a few months, but Dr. Penny Heaton officially introduced it at the BIO International Convention in Boston last week.
Dr. Heaton is a former vaccine developer from Novartis and will now lead the Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute. She also announced that the firm has a $273 million funding to support it for four years.
The research institute will not focus on profit. Instead, it will partner up with other companies to make innovative treatments at affordable prices.
Their first project will be to test if the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine can improve adolescents’ resistance to tuberculosis.
Forbes reports that Bill and Melinda Gates considered starting a biotech when they started the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They decided not to follow up on it at that time, but as more experts from the pharmaceutical industry joined the team, the idea took off.
The Gates Foundation was launched in the year 2000 and is one of the largest foundations in the US. The foundation aims to improve healthcare, especially in poverty-stricken areas.
The foundation is already actively donating in companies that work on medicines and vaccines for tuberculosis.
It recently granted $220 million to Aeras, a leading biotechnology non-profit, to accelerate the development of safe, effective vaccines against tuberculosis.
According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis kills around 1.4 million people every year.
Aeras president Jim Connolly says that the donation from the Gates Foundation gives Aeras the potential to deliver a vaccine for tuberculosis by the end of the decade.
However, he rightly points out that no single organization can achieve this feat alone. He said: “We are in this together, and to succeed we will need to work with everyone — more investors, researchers, manufacturers, regulatory agencies, and national leaders.”
Non-profit biotech ventures are a step in the right direction to create solutions for hard-to-treat diseases like tuberculosis.