Gates Foundation funds tuberculosis vaccine research

Continuing a streak of donations to the field of vaccine research and biotech in general, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation granted $100,000 to an AgResearch scientist for research into a new tuberculosis vaccination method.

Axel Heiser from Hopkirk Institute in Palmerston North, New Zealand, nabbed the Grand Challenges Explorations grant to use nanoparticle technology to vaccinate against human and bovine TB. The money gives Heiser a year to work on a more effective, longer lasting vaccine.

The project takes advantage of a nanoparticle technology called PolyBatics, developed by Massey University's Bernd Rehm.

"He showed how you could genetically modify bacteria to make little beads inside them which express antigens that work as a vaccine," Heiser said in a statement. "This has worked with the model bacterium E. coli, and this grant enables us to take the concept beyond that and do it with an important pathogen."

Heiser's grant comes as one of more than 80 given out as Grand Challenges Explorations funds in the current round. Heiser will test his method on mice. If the method proves effective, Heiser could go into another round of funding for up to $1 million. A veterinary vaccine will likely come first, followed by a TB vaccine for humans. In 2009, nearly 9 million people worldwide became ill with TB, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The program is open to anyone from any discipline and organization.

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