Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond has received the largest private grant in history: 25 million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The money will support the school’s “Medicines for All” research. Virginia’s Governor was on hand at the announcement.
The Gates Foundation has already given $15 million dollars to the effort, meaning VCU has now received $40 million overall. Virginia’s Governor helped seal the deal back in January.
“I’m really proud of this, actually Dr. Gupton and I -- I was part of the pitch, one of the pitches we had, we went out to San Francisco and you would have thought I invented medicine the way I was sitting there, he gave me some great talking points," laughed the Governor during a press conference announcing the grant.
The “he” is Frank Gupton. For years, Gupton and a small team have been working on making life-saving drugs at the cheapest cost possible. They targets the active ingredients, refining manufacturing processes.
Last year, they developed a new way to make the active ingredient in an HIV drug, lowering costs by 40-percent. The Gates Foundation was so pleased they wanted Gupton to work on more than one drug at a time.
“And I said ‘No I can’t do that, there’s only one of me.’ And then they said well what if we were able to give you the funding to be able to recruit additional people to come in and work in parallel with you on other drugs,” says Gupton
So that’s what they did. The latest funding will be used to create a “Medicines for All” Institute in Richmond. They already have about 30 people involved, and hope to have partnerships in the private sector soon.
They’ve been given five years to ramp up their work, making it cheaper to fight not just AIDS, but tuberculosis, malaria and sleeping sickness.