Gates Pledges $100 Million For AIDS Vaccine
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Saturday announced a $100 million "challenge grant" to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, designed to "encourage others at the conference of global business and government leaders to contribute" to the search for an AIDS vaccine, the AP/Salt Lake Tribune reports. Gates' commitment, which is not dependent on matching funds, will be given between 2002 and 2006, during which time IAVI hopes to develop and test 25 possible vaccines. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to sponsor trials for eight to 12 such vaccines and has raised $230 million of the projected $550 million cost. Calling the absence of an AIDS vaccine 20 years after the outbreak of HIV "an unbelievable market failure," Gates said that his "private push" was meant to correct that inadequacy. He added that because the majority of new HIV infections occur in poorer countries, "there's no way commercial companies are going to see [an AIDS vaccine] as a priority." Yahoo!, the first corporate sponsor of IAVI, on Saturday also pledged $5 million to be spent over three years on a public awareness campaign on its world-wide network of Internet sites (Geitner, AP/Salt Lake Tribune 1/27).
Vaccine Trial Set to Begin in Kenya
Human trials on the first vaccine to target the "A" strain of HIV prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa are set to begin in Nairobi, Kenya, "in the next few days" according to IAVI head Seth Berkley, BBC News reports. The "A" strain vaccine is one of 25 vaccines currently being tested on humans around the world and has undergone preliminary testing in Oxford, England, since August, Berkley reported (BBC News, 1/27). It was developed after researchers discovered that a group of Nairobi prostitutes "never contracted HIV, despite repeated exposure." Berkley told conference attendees that IAVI's "model of speed and flexibility has allowed the Oxford/Nairobi vaccine candidate to move forward in near record time." He added that a vaccine is the "only way to fight AIDS in Africa" because antiretroviral drugs are "out of reach" due to their cost (Reuters/Arizona Republic, 1/27).