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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 23:13 GMT 00:13 UK
Gates gives third disease grant
Bill Gates
It is the third grant Gates has given the Liverpool school
British scientists have been given $23m (11.5m) by Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates to help fight some of the world's most debilitating diseases.

Researchers at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine have been given the grant for research into the parasitic worm infection, human filariasis.

The infection can lead to diseases such as elephantiasis, which causes grossly enlarged limbs, and river blindness.

In 2005, the Gates Foundation gave the school 28m for research into malaria.

Researchers are using the new grant to try to develop new combinations of filariasis drugs.

A team of scientists, led by Dr Mark Taylor, hopes to test thousands of new combinations of potential filariasis drugs.

If successful, their work could help prevent diseases which affect more than 150 million of the world's poorest people.

Importantly, it could add another weapon in the armoury against these diseases
Dr Mark Taylor

Current anti-worm drugs have to be taken for many years to cover the life span of the adult worms, making it difficult to sustain the delivery of the drugs in poor countries.

Dr Taylor said the team was aiming to develop a drug to kill a bacteria inside the worm, Wolbachia, which was essential for its survival.

He said: "Our aim is to obtain a safe and easily administered anti-symbiotic drug combination to kill the bacteria in a shorter period, reducing the time needed for programmes to eliminate adult worms from an endemic area.

"Importantly, it could add another weapon in the armoury against these diseases.

"It is also a good example of how basic biomedical research can deliver new treatments which are both effective and affordable - with this grant we can now address the challenge of translating them into tools for public health."

The scientists will work with an international consortium of six academic and industrial partners.

Dr Regina Rabinovich, director of infectious diseases for the Gates Foundation, said the grant was aimed at accelerating the research on new drugs.

"We are pleased to support this consortium, which builds on important efforts by the Wellcome Trust, the European Union and others to control neglected diseases in the poorest countries," she said.

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