Alere snags up to $42.2M from Gates Foundation for TB Dx

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting Alere's development of an easy-to-use tuberculosis diagnostic and an HIV assay.--Courtesy of the Gates Foundation

Diagnostics magnate Alere ($ALR) has hooked up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a tuberculosis assay and support its point-of-care HIV test. The foundation is dolling out a $21.6 million grant for the TB program and offering below-market debt financing of up to $20.6 million to support Alere's assay manufacturing.

With the grant money, Alere will create an easy-to-use TB diagnostic that can be used in resource-constrained environments, ideal for the developing world, developing a TB application for its compact, portable Alere Q platform. Separately, the company will use the loan dollars to ramp up production at its Jena, Germany, plant, which produces its near-market nucleic acid TB test and viral load HIV assay.

Tuberculosis remains a leading cause of death around the world, with nearly 8.8 million cases each year, according to the foundation. And while lab-based diagnostics have no trouble identifying the disease, cash-strapped countries often lack lab access, creating a desperate need for a highly sensitive, low-cost diagnostic that can be used anywhere, Alere CEO Ron Zwanziger said.

"There is a critical need for near-patient diagnostics that accurately identify TB cases and facilitate effective management to keep the condition under control," Zwanziger said in a statement. "We are very excited to have the support of the Gates Foundation in fighting one of the most dangerous infectious diseases, and we remain committed to providing solutions that improve health outcomes for individuals living with HIV."

Alere plans to pair its isothermal amplification technology for TB detection with a near-patient molecular diagnostic platform, and the company's history of bringing innovative technologies to market make it an ideal partner for the foundation, Bill Gates said.

"Alere has a track record of diagnostic innovation and leveraging cost-effective technologies to improve health outcomes for individuals living with HIV in the most remote parts of the world," Gates said in a statement. "The Gates Foundation has put its support behind the company to apply these same principles in addressing the TB epidemic and potentially saving millions of lives."

- read Alere's announcement

Special Report: Bill Gates - The 25 most influential people in biopharma today - 2013

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