New Nonprofit Biotech From Bill and Melinda Gates

August 14, 2018, Vol 320, No. 6, Pages 519-612

Biotech Innovations
August 14, 2018
New Nonprofit Biotech From Bill and Melinda Gates
Jennifer Abbasi
JAMA. 2018;320(6):539. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.11253
A new nonprofit biotech organization funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will take on infectious diseases that disproportionately affect the world’s poorest populations: malaria, tuberculosis, and enteric and diarrheal diseases in children. Together these diseases cause 5 deaths every minute, according to the new organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute.
Officially open since January, the institute—known as Gates MRI—recently announced details about its mission. Penny M. Heaton, MD, will serve as the institute’s chief executive officer. Heaton previously directed the foundation’s vaccine development program. Immunizations are on the docket at the new institute, too, which aims to speed the development of novel vaccine, drug, and biologic candidates for its target diseases.
Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the institute will focus on translational medicine, moving research from late preclinical studies to proof-of-concept phase 1 trials. Later-stage development will involve partnerships with pharmaceutical and biotech companies, nonprofit product developers, and low- and middle-income country manufacturers.
According to the announcement, Gates MRI researchers’ first project will test if a booster shot of the bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which is usually given to infants but wanes in efficacy over time, protects at-risk adolescents from tuberculosis.