In the Quest for a Vaccine, Money for a Closer Look at HIV Proteins

The Gates Foundation awarded the Scripps Research Institute two grants totaling over $4.5 million to get a closer look at HIV proteins and how they interact with antibodies. The five-year study allows researchers to combine their collective resources in one space in order to accelerate, better evaluate, and identify the best vaccine candidates to eradicate the HIV-1 virus.

HIV-1 is one of the two main forms of HIV and is considered to be the most virulent and the causative agent leading to full blown AIDS. The majority of the Gates grant money will go toward HIV-1 vaccine research which includes the provision of tools needed to collect and process high resolution images of HIV proteins interacting with antibodies. This will allow scientists to determine which substances are most effective in inducing immunity. The remaining grant money will be allocated to increasing the computer processing power related to the study.

Related: Gates Foundation: Grants for Global Health

Just a month ago, we wondered if the Gates Foundation had forgotten about HIV/AIDS. At that time it had only awarded around $8 million in related grants. We did note that the foundation had established a pattern of awarded the majority of its HIV/AIDS related grants during the second half of the year, so we were expecting big HIV/AIDS grant amounts to be rolling out the door at Gates in the coming months. And we weren’t wrong.

In addition to its over $4.5 million grant to Scripps, the Gates Foundation gave the Clinton Health Access Initiative over $10 million to accelerate and scale up male circumcision programs in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. It also granted Rockefeller University a nearly $13 million grant to support its HIV-1 antibody work. Finally, Gates awarded Family Health International a monster grant for nearly $27 million to support a clinical trial comparing HIV contraction and contraceptive benefits for women using specific family planning methods in sub-Saharan Africa.  

Adding those recent grants to the mix brings the Gates Foundation’s HIV/AIDS funding to nearly $62 million to date, demonstrating that Gates has clearly not forgotten about HIV/AIDS. This jump in funding could not have come soon enough. In general, private organization and NGO funding for HIV/AIDS projects has decreased in recent years. According to a report released by UNAIDS and the Lancet Commission, if funding for HIV/AIDS and access to treatment isn’t increased, we will likely see a dramatic global rebound of the HIV epidemic.

Related: Check Out This Trio: Gates and Nike Join U.S. to Prevent AIDS Among Young Women