Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation opens new biotech nonprofit: 4 things to know

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spun out a nonprofit medical research institute to combat diseases that disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries, STAT reports.

Here are four things to know about the Bill and Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute:

1. Penny Heaton, MD, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute, introduced the institute June 7 at the BIO International Convention in Boston. The institute, which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation first revealed plans for in April 2017, opened at a temporary space in Cambridge, Mass., in early January.

2. The Bill and Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute aims to combat diseases that disproportionately affect the poor in low- and middle-income countries, for example, malaria, tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases. Rather than developing solutions, the institute plans to support the development of novel ideas already being created at academic labs and biotech firms.

3. Dr. Heaton said the institute — which boasts $273 million in funding for its first four years — isn't focused on profit or owning intellectual property, and will look for commercial partners to take over and scale successful solutions after the proof-of-concept phase. However, the institute will ask commercial partners to commit to making products available at affordable prices and in the needed volume.

4. The Bill and Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute already has ideas for initial projects, including an annual shot to administer antimalarial drugs and a TB vaccine.

"We don't have to worry about revenue, return on investment," Dr. Heaton told STAT. "Our bottom line is lives saved. So it's a pretty exciting place to be."

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