It was explained by the foundation that they wish the program would transform the elusive AIDS vaccine effort by rewarding individual labs that come up with innovative ideas and to help them develop those ideas, and also at the same time ensuring that they collaborate with other researchers, who normally would often be considered rivals.
The 16 grants is scheduled to go to more than 165 investigators in 19 countries, some of whom are the top names in AIDS research and some a less well known. All the scientists involved have been made to sign an unparalleled association agreement, which specifies that they all will openly share their data and results in the hope of getting the most hopeful vaccine candidate as quickly as possible into clinical trials in humans.
Dr. Nicholas Hellmann, acting director of the Gates Foundation's HIV, TB, and Reproductive Health program, told reporters in a telephone briefing, "This is the foundation's largest-ever investment in HIV vaccine development. In fact, it's our largest-ever package of grants for HIV and AIDS." Stating, "Progress has simply not been fast enough," he said that the researchers will be free to patent and profit from any findings but must agree to make any resulting vaccine freely available to people in the developing world.
AIDS was first described in 1981 and it has so far been extremely difficult to find a way to make an effective vaccine. Statistics show that the AIDS virus infects close to 40 million people and 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981. HIV kills 8,000 people a day, most in Africa and many of them women and children. So far there is no known cure, although drugs can help control the virus and can sometimes help prevent it from being passed along.