The Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced four grants totaling more than $68 million to fight tropical diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The funds will largely be used to develop vaccines and treatments for hookworm, leishmaniasis (black fever), and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) — tropical diseases that are transmitted via parasites and worms. In an effort to speed up development of a vaccine for black fever, which affects twelve million people and kills thousands annually, the Seattle-based Infectious Disease Research Institute will receive $32 million over six years.
Other grants announced by the foundation include $13.8 million to the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington, D.C., to develop a hookworm vaccine; $21.3 million to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to develop effective, inexpensive drugs to treat the late stages of leishmaniasis and trypanosomiasis; and $1.1 million to the Public Library of Science (PLoS) in San Francisco to launch PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, a medical journal on neglected diseases.
"Many of the world's most debilitating illnesses are virtually unheard of in the rich world, but they're a fact of life for millions of people in poor countries," said Tachi Yamada, president of the Global Health Program at the Gates Foundation. "We hope our investment in solutions for these problems will spur other donors, governments and researchers to take action, so that we can see the day when 'neglected' no longer applies to these diseases."