The University of Wisconsin announced Tuesday a researcher recently received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of more than $1 million to aid the prevention of a worldwide bird flu pandemic.
UW pathobiology professor, Yoshihiro Kawaoka, along with Maryland-based Lentigen Corp., received the $1.3 million donation ? the first of its kind related to global public health ? from the foundation created by the famed Microsoft founder and his wife.
The goal of the project is to understand different influenza strains and how they might mutate to potentially infect and spread through human populations, according to Lentigen Associate Director Robert Keefe.
Janet Kelly, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation communications director, said one condition of the grant is all technologies and techniques discovered during this research must be made available to researchers. This means WARF will not be licensing the technologies out for a fee but for free.
?WARF is donating the technology to the worldwide research community, recognizing it could significantly improve world health,? Kelly said. ?The major part of our mission is to ensure that valuable technologies are made available to the whole world to find a way to help ward off potentially devastating influenza pandemics.?
Keefe said Lentigen was happy to enter the collaboration even though the company cannot make a profit off of any discoveries.?
?Our corporate mission statement is to improve human health, developing cures to make new medicines for diseases that are untreatable,? Keefe said. ?This is a great way to advance medicine.?
Keefe said he is very excited about the potential collaboration with Kawaoka, saying the operations of the two parties fit well together.
He said Kawaoka will first create the mutations and ship them to Lentigen. Lentigen will create the viral vectors that transfer DNA from one organism to another and ship them back to Kawaoka, who will then test the vectors in his lab to see if they can infect humans.
Keefe said the transfer of these materials will not pose a public health hazard, adding ?none of this will be live or infectious.?
Lentigen has plans to create many new technologies to facilitate the research and expects to break new ground with the funds.
?We may end up with 50 million different viruses that we make,? Keefe said. ?We want to develop some new methods to develop robotic handling systems and screening systems.?
He added the Gates Foundation?s decision to invest in this project shows they are thinking ahead and are concerned with finding a way to predict this kind of infection before it?s too late.