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Baltimore researchers receive $40 million from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and University of Maryland School of Medicine to develop ground-breaking measles vaccine for infants in developing countries

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded grants of $20 million each to the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health to develop a new type of measles vaccine that, for the first time, would protect infants younger than 9 months old. Such a vaccine would dramatically reduce the suffering and death rate from measles in developing countries.

"Finding a safe and effective vaccine to protect the world's youngest children against measles is an urgent global health priority," says Bill Foege, Senior Health Advisor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We are tremendously hopeful that this collaboration between two major research facilities will speed the development of this important vaccine and ultimately help save millions of children's lives."

Measles kills more than 900,000 children each year in less developed parts of the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While widespread use of the current injected measles vaccine has saved the lives of millions of children, the disease is far from being eradicated in the developing world because a window of vulnerability exists among infants from 5 to 8 months of age.

Newborns are protected against measles by antibodies passed to them from their mothers, but those antibody levels drop steadily over time, increasing the infants' susceptibility to measles. At the same time, low levels of the mother's antibodies neutralize the effectiveness of the measles vaccine. For that reason, the WHO recommends that the current measles vaccine be administered when children are at least 9 months old.

"We are pleased that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has asked us to take on this ambitious, five-year project. It will involve laboratory work as well as cl
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Contact: Dennis O'Shea
dro@jhu.edu
410-516-7109
Johns Hopkins University
27-Aug-2000


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