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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced this week that it will give US$60 million to research on microbicides — gels or creams designed to block the sexual transmission of HIV.

The grant will be made to the US-based International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), an organisation set up last year with a US$15 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to accelerate the development of microbicides.

The IPM aims to encourage greater investment in microbicides — which so far have lacked support from major pharmaceutical companies — by providing targeted grants to both public and private organisations involved in microbicide research.

In exchange for IPM's support, microbicide developers must agree to provide their products at low cost in the developing world, where the need for microbicides is greatest.

"The Gates Foundation's injection of new resources will make industry sit up and take notice," says Craig Wheeler, president of Chiron BioPharmaceuticals. "IPM has essentially been transformed into a US$100-million venture capital fund. This will certainly draw many new entrants into microbicide research."

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Related external links:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
International Partnership for Microbicides