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Gates Foundation awards $25 million for HIV research

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awards $25 million for HIV research. Oregon Health & Science University HIV researcher, Dr. Louis J. Picker and his team of scientists will receive the funds to perform additional research on developing a vaccine to treat HIV infections.

Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates and his wife Melinda attend the 123rd Stanford commencement ceremony in Stanford, California. Bill Gates and wife Melinda Gates delivered the commencement speech to Stanford University graduates.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Dr. Picker and his colleagues hope to develop a vaccine to eliminate the HIV virus and prevent it from infecting people who may become exposed to the deadly disease.

HIV cure on the horizon

On a global scale, the World Health Organization (WHO) proclaims over 35 million people live with HIV, last year. In addition, close to 2.1 million people were infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Moreover, last year more than 1.5 million people died from the disease, according to the organization.

The on-going battle to find a vaccine for HIV continues with new research and successful results from Dr. Picker and other scientist working on the vaccine. However, past attempts have failed.

Nonetheless, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation granted millions of dollars to help researchers develop a preventable HIV vaccine. For the next five years, scientists will try to establish whether the vaccine will work safely on humans.

Dr. Picker is one of the most closely watched researchers in the world. Last year, Dr. Picker and his contemporaries published a landmark paper in the esteemed Nature journal, which resulted in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarding the university $8 million for additional research. In addition, the National Institutes of Health also contributed funds, while claiming Dr. Picker’s research the most "promising medical advances" in 2013.

The team of scientists at the university actually developed a vaccine that halts the transmission of a form of HIV virus in approximately half of 100 monkeys.

What to expect

Administering a vaccine to millions of people has its controversies. Nonetheless, Dr Picker explains, “You have to make sure that it works and make sure that it's safe. In effect, we helped better arm the hunters in the body to chase down and kill an elusive viral enemy. And we're quite confident that this vaccine approach can work exactly the same way against HIV in humans.”

Human trials of the HIV vaccine are expected to take place around 2016. If the clinical trials are successful, a commercially available vaccine is not anticipated until 2024.

So far, Dr. Picker’s research eradicated the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) in half of the primates infected with the disease. SIV is similar to HIV; it is almost identical.

Picker claims it "quite likely" the human version of the vaccine will realize comparable results. "I think we have a very good shot at it."

Millions of people hope that Dr. Picker and his team of researcher’s “shot at it” will result in a bulls-eye with the aid of federal funds awarded for future research on this project and the $25 million granted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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