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Aeras granted $220 million from Gates Foundation
ROCKVILLE, Md.—Aeras gained significant funding for its ongoing vaccine work today, announcing that it had received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant consists of up to $220 million over five years, and will help the not-for-profit biotech to continue its work in developing new vaccines against tuberculosis (TB) in the face of an increase in drug-resistant strains.
"There is an urgent need for the global community to support the full range of tools to eliminate tuberculosis, but the development of TB vaccines that can prevent men, women and children from developing the disease would be the single greatest advance in the global fight against TB," said Trevor Mundel, President of the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Aeras' work will help realize the vision for the Decade of Vaccines, to create a world in which all individuals and communities enjoy lives free from vaccine-preventable diseases, through accelerated efforts from all partners. If donor and endemic countries can join together to show their commitment through funding and collaboration, the innovative research that Aeras and others are making possible could one day have a significant impact on TB, which is gaining in its ability to resist the solutions we have in hand. The foundation thanks Aeras for its commitment to the TB research and development space, helping us realize long-term goals sooner."
Aeras is working on several different vaccines in its pipeline, including recombinant BCG (the current standard) vaccines, new recombinant fusion proteins administrated with new adjuvants and non-replicating or replication- deficient viral-vectored vaccines. The vaccines seek to over-express certain TB antigens recognized by the immune system, allowing it to further prepare for actual infection, while others work to prevent the TB germ from remaining hidden in cells.
"We are grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their continued confidence in Aeras and their support of our efforts to develop vaccines against a disease that costs the global economy billions of dollars annually, and hits hardest in the nations of Africa and Eastern Europe, and the emerging economic powerhouses of Asia," Jim Connolly, President and CEO of Aeras, said in a press release. "This infusion of funding must be seen as a global call to action in response to one of the world's deadliest diseases. It will allow Aeras to expand upon existing partnerships in Europe, Africa, China, and around the world, and to build new partnerships that will accelerate the development of safe and effective vaccines. But the scientific challenges are immense, and the threat is global. Without support for this search for new vaccines from every quarter, we will never eliminate TB as a global health threat."
Tuberculosis is responsible for approximately 1.4 million deaths each year. While one in three people globally are thought to carry the TB organism, only a portion will go on to develop the disease. The biggest threat consists of the disease's complexity and the fact that drug-resistant strains are on the rise, with the World Health Organization (WHO) noting that such strains have climbed to the highest levels ever recorded. The economic burden of TB is estimated at about $12 billion annually, according to the WHO.