Aeras granted $220 million from Gates Foundation

Aeras gained significant funding for its ongoing vaccine work today, announcing that it had received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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ROCKVILLE, Md.—Aeras gained significant funding for itsongoing vaccine work today, announcing that it had received a grant from theBill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant consists of up to $220 millionover five years, and will help the not-for-profit biotech to continue its workin developing new vaccines against tuberculosis (TB) in the face of an increasein drug-resistant strains.
"There is an urgent need for the global community to supportthe full range of tools to eliminate tuberculosis, but the development of TBvaccines that can prevent men, women and children from developing the diseasewould be the single greatest advance in the global fight against TB," saidTrevor Mundel, President of the Global Health Program at the Bill & MelindaGates Foundation. "Aeras' work will help realize the vision for the Decade ofVaccines, to create a world in which all individuals and communities enjoylives free from vaccine-preventable diseases, through accelerated efforts fromall partners. If donor and endemic countries can join together to show theircommitment through funding and collaboration, the innovative research thatAeras and others are making possible could one day have a significant impact onTB, 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 anddevelopment space, helping us realize long-term goals sooner."
Aeras is working on several different vaccines in itspipeline, including recombinant BCG (the current standard) vaccines, newrecombinant fusion proteins administrated with new adjuvants andnon-replicating or replication-deficient viral-vectored vaccines. The vaccinesseek to over-express certain TB antigens recognized by the immune system,allowing it to further prepare for actual infection, while others work toprevent the TB germ from remaining hidden in cells.
"We are grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationfor their continued confidence in Aeras and their support of our efforts todevelop vaccines against a disease that costs the global economy billions ofdollars annually, and hits hardest in the nations of Africa and Eastern Europe,and the emerging economic powerhouses of Asia," Jim Connolly, President and CEOof Aeras, said in a press release. "This infusion of funding must be seen as aglobal call to action in response to one of the world's deadliest diseases. Itwill allow Aeras to expand upon existing partnerships in Europe, Africa, China,and around the world, and to build new partnerships that will accelerate thedevelopment of safe and effective vaccines. But the scientific challenges areimmense, and the threat is global. Without support for this search for newvaccines from every quarter, we will never eliminate TB as a global healththreat."
Tuberculosis is responsible for approximately 1.4 milliondeaths each year. While one in three people globally are thought to carry theTB organism, only a portion will go on to develop the disease. The biggestthreat consists of the disease's complexity and the fact that drug-resistantstrains are on the rise, with the World Health Organization (WHO) noting thatsuch strains have climbed to the highest levels ever recorded. The economicburden of TB is estimated at about $12 billion annually, according to the WHO.

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