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Vivian Xie
11 May 2023

Medicines for All receive $18.7 million grant for expansion of global access to lifesaving medication

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Virginia Commonwealth University-based research-related institute will use the grant to expand on its current capabilities of bringing lifesaving medications around the world, as well as working on 14 new global health projects.

Medicines for All, based at the Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU’s) College of Engineering, has received a USD $18.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in support of its work to bring lifesaving medications around the world at reduced costs.  

Tuberculosis has remained the second-leading cause of death among infectious disease over the last 3 years (with COVID-19 leading the list). Over 10 million new cases of tuberculosis occur each year, with 5% of these cases demonstrating resistance to standard first-line tuberculosis treatments. Costs for second-line tuberculosis are often prohibitively high, with accessibility for only one in three patients with drug resistance tuberculosis. Malaria also remains a challenging global disease to tackle – growing resistance to current treatments has put proven treatments and protocols at risk of redundancy. New treatments have few development pipelines in the works, and even potential drug candidates remain expensive. 

Founded in 2017, Medicines for All has worked for nearly a decade to establish and strengthen partnerships with a network of pharmaceutical researchers, manufacturers, and distributors to optimise the impact of novel drug development. The institute’s work includes managing and optimising methods to be more cost-effective when producing materials for drug manufacturing. Medicines for All has developed and delivered cost-saving methods for the pivoting of resources towards antiviral COVID-19 treatments such as Paxlovid, delivered cost reductions for malaria treatments and HIV retrovirals, and shown the impact of launching new targets at accessible prices for in-development drugs like those for tuberculosis. 

In close collaboration with the VUC’s College of Engineering, the institute has utilised unique approaches to the pharmaceutical manufacturing process to develop cost-effective steps that reduce the final cost of the drug product. From simplifying raw materials to the optimisation of development processes, Medicines for All has identified several steps in the manufacturing process where methods can be made more economical, such as that for bedaquiline, a medicine for the treatment of tuberculosis, that now results in yields twice as high as previous methods. 

Medicines for All has, in addition to the recent grant, received over USD $60 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the past decade. “Our long-standing support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has enabled us to have an impact on the lives of people around the world,” CEO of Medicines for All B. Frank Gupton, PhD, stated. “This new grant represents a recognition of the important work that we all still have ahead of us to continue to deliver low-cost medicines to those who need them.” 

Over the next 5 years, Medicines for All hopes to use the funding it has received to continue addressing growing drug shortages and work towards providing essential and affordable medicines by expanding its capacity and capabilities such as building advanced manufacturing capacities across the globe. Included with the grand will be a co-funding mechanism to take advantage of matching support from the Gates Foundation. The aim will be to lower the cost of projects for sponsors interested in supporting and working with Medicines for All on priority global health drug targets. Gary Tepper, PhD, interim Dean of the College of Engineering at VCU, commented: “Watching Medicines for All grow into an organisation with such a significant impact is something we’re really proud of... From its early moments as part of the College of Engineering, Medicines for All has become a model for how to connect research with manufacturing, using partnerships between the public and private sectors to deliver affordable, quality medication.” 

“Medicines for All has been fortunate to realise a number of successes over the first 8 years of our work supported by the Gates Foundation,” concluded Gupton. “However, the problems we hope to solve are immense, and we are just getting started on this journey. We are looking forward to continuing this work with our existing partners and working with new partners to help fulfil our mission of improving access to medicines around the world.” 

Source: Medicines for All awarded $18.7 million to increase global access to lifesaving medications [Accessed May 11, 2023]  

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