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Calibr Receives Gates Foundation Grant For Disease Research

Global Health: California nonprofit to use $29 million for discovering drugs for developing-world diseases

by Lisa M. Jarvis
May 16, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 20

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has enlisted the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr) to discover drugs for diseases that affect the developing world.

Calibr, a nonprofit that works with scientists across the country to translate ideas into drug candidates, will receive nearly $29 million over five years. Roughly 20 scientists, primarily postdoctoral chemists and biologists, will be hired to support the collaboration.

Calibr will focus on the foundation’s priority research areas: tuberculosis, infections from parasitic worms called helminths, diarrheal disease, and malaria. Research projects will begin with cell- or target-based screens for druglike compounds and continue through studies enabling a drug candidate to be tested in humans.

The goal is to generate a self-renewing preclinical pipeline across multiple diseases, with a focus on new approaches to treating diseases of developing nations, according to Calibr’s director, chemist and entrepreneur Peter G. Schultz. One benefit of that breadth is “that you wind up getting synergy across various projects within a specific disease focus and also between various diseases,” Schultz notes. For example, lessons learned from developing complex screens for one disease might apply to other diseases.

The deal with the Gates Foundation marks the second major pact for Calibr. The nonprofit launched in 2012 based on a significant partnership with Merck & Co., which committed up to $90 million in funding over seven years in exchange for an option to license drug candidates coming out of Calibr’s labs.


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