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Imperial receives Gates Foundation grant to develop new tests for managing AIDS treatment

Imperial College London has received a 4.9 ($8.6) million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a simple, affordable and rapid test to measure the health of the immune system in HIV/AIDS patients in developing countries.

The 'CD4 Initiative' will develop an easy to use device which can measure CD4+ T-lymphocytes in HIV+ patients. The CD4 cell count measures the number of these critical disease-fighting cells in the blood, a figure which health care workers need in order to make key clinical decisions in managing HIV disease, such as when to begin or to switch antiretroviral therapy.

Current technologies for measuring CD4 counts are expensive to buy and maintain, and require a level of infrastructure and training which is often not available in many developing countries. The CD4 Initiative will develop new tests that are more appropriate for these countries based on specifications developed with health care workers in hospitals and clinics in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.

Professor Stephen Smith, Principal of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: "Despite the burden of HIV/AIDS on the developing world, many of the diagnostic tools are just not accessible there due to the high cost and complexity of use. This initiative will help develop new, simple, rapid, robust and affordable tools and help remove one important barrier to the effective implementation of AIDS care in these countries."

The principal investigator, Dr. Hans George Batz, together with the Imperial-based team will manage an R&D programme to develop these much needed diagnostics. Dr. Batz is a former Senior Vice President of Research and Development at Roche Diagnostics and has been involved with the development of the initiative for the past two years. Dr. Batz will be supported by an international steering committee of experts, a small staff and the Imperial College's liaison to the project, Dr. Wendy Ewart. The ini
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Contact: Tony Stephenson
at.stephenson@imperial.ac.uk
44-207-594-6712
Imperial College London
21-Nov-2005


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