The Bill and & Melinda Gates Foundation has revealed that it has established a new biotech start up, with the aim to eradicate diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, alongside enteric diseases which remain responsible for up to three million deaths per annum yet provide limited financial incentives for profit driven companies.
To bolster its efforts, the organisation does not seek to make money from the venture, STAT has reported.
Placing significant investment in developing new drugs and vaccines, the Bill and Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute (MRI) will therefore take any new development through to clinical proof of concept and bring new treatments to market.
“We don’t have to worry about revenue, return on investment. Our bottom line is lives saved. So, it’s a pretty exciting place to be,” explained Dr Penny Heaton, Novavax’s former Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Development.
“Our mission is to develop products that will enable the end of diarrheal disease deaths, eradication of malaria … and to accelerate the end of the TB epidemic.”
With an annual budget of $100mn, the organisation will be led by experienced individuals, such as Trevor Mundel, Head of the Gates Foundation’s global health operations and David Kaufman from Merck Research Labs, and many more, which will also filter into its continual recruitment drive.
“TB still has 1.7mn deaths every year. Malaria accounts for nearly 500,000 deaths every year. You look at enteric disease and while the rotavirus vaccines have done amazing things, we still have 500,000 deaths from enteric diseases every year in children under five,” explained Heaton.
By breaking down silos, the organisation will first aim to tackle tuberculosis and will look at providing a booster hot of the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine for adolescents to reduce escalating figures.
However, any advancements within the production of new drugs will come with a caveat, to ensure all developments are provided at affordable prices and can be developed rapidly to prevent potential outbreaks.