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Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates visiting women in Jamsaut village in Bihar, India. (Gates Foundation Photo)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the top forces in global health philanthropy, is embarking on a new kind of venture.

The foundation announced last year that it would establish an institute focused on translating academic research into real products to solve global health challenges, and the organization has now officially launched. The Institute will have an annual operating budget of $100 million, a Gates Foundation spokesperson told GeekWire, and will be funded by the foundation.

Called the Bill and Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute, the organization is based in Cambridge, Mass., a hotbed of biotech research and industry. It is led by CEO Dr. Penny Heaton, formerly the director of the Gates Foundation’s Vaccine Development Division, and first opened its doors in January.

The institute will focus on diseases that predominantly affect the poor, which are often passed over by the mainstream biotech industry concerned with bottom lines. Its first targets will be malaria, tuberculosis and enteric diseases, a group of diseases that can cause diarrhea and other life-threatening problems with the digestive system.

The institute goes beyond the Gates Foundation’s traditional focus on philanthropy and extends its reach into actually creating new drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and medical devices.

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