The National Institute of Health (NIH) has announced plans to invest at least 100 million dollars over the next four years to develop an affordable and gene-based cure for sickle cell disease (SCD) and HIV.
A statement signed and copied to the Ghana News Agency by Ms Caroline Kee, the Senior Associate, Global Health Strategies, said the innovation aimed at creating treatments that would be affordable, safe, effective and scalable in low-resource settings.
It said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would also invest 100 million dollars toward the initiative.
The statement said the initiative followed a bold announcement made, earlier this year, by US President Donald Trump, during the State of the Union Address to end the HIV epidemic in the United States in the next 10 years.
“Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America aims to leverage the powerful data and tools now available to reducing new HIV diagnoses in the United States by 75 per cent in five years and by 90 per cent by 2030.”
“The Trump Administration has also elevated the attention paid to sickle cell disease, identifying it as an intractable health challenge with the potential for dramatic advances in the coming years”.
The statement noted that the dramatic advances in genetics over the last decade had made effective gene-based treatments a reality, including new treatments for blindness and certain types of leukemia.
“Yet these breakthroughs are largely inaccessible to most of the world by virtue of the complexity and cost of treatment requirements, which currently limit their administration to hospitals in wealthy countries,” it added.
“To make these treatments effective and available for SCD and HIV, which disproportionately affect populations living in Africa or of African descent, new investment is needed to focus research on the development of curative therapies that can be delivered safely, effectively and affordably in low-resource settings”.
The statement said the collaboration between the NIH and the Gates Foundation sets out a bold goal of advancing safe, effective and durable gene-based cures to clinical trials in the United States and relevant countries in sub-Saharan Africa within the next seven to 10 years.
It quoted Dr Francis S. Collins, the NIH Director, as saying; “This unprecedented collaboration focuses from the get-go on access, scalability and affordability of advanced gene-based strategies for sickle cell disease and HIV to make sure everybody, everywhere has the opportunity to be cured, not just those in high-income countries”.