Bill Gates Makes Major AIDS Donation

Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and his wife Melinda will announce tomorrow a $25 million contribution to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), the largest single philanthropic donation ever made to AIDS research, Science has learned. "Bill and Melinda Gates are very excited and pleased to partner with organizations making such a difference in global health," confirms Trevor Neilson, a spokesperson for the William H. Gates Foundation.

IAVI will receive $5 million a year for the next 5 years from the foundation, which last June gave the New York-based nonprofit $1.5 million. According to Neilson, $13.5 million will fund up to three new international AIDS vaccine development teams. Another $3.5 million will support the two such teams put together last year to develop HIV vaccines specifically for Kenya and South Africa. Between $2.5 million and $3.5 million will go to IAVI's applied research program, advocacy and clinical trial preparation in developing countries, and operational support. "This historic act of generosity will allow us to significantly accelerate the scientific effort," says Seth Berkley, president of IAVI.

The new donation will more double IAVI's coffers to nearly $50 million and should significantly heighten the institute's ability to carry out development and human trials of these vaccines. The National Institutes of Health still remains by far the largest player in the field, now spending $200 million a year on HIV vaccine R&D. The iconoclastic IAVI, however, hopes to approach the problem from a novel angle, marrying academics from both wealthy and poor countries with cash-strapped companies.