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And Then for All

The US National Institutes of Health is partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop gene-based treatments for sickle cell disease and HIV for sub-Saharan Africa, as Francis Collins, the NIH director, writes at Forbes magazine.

Rather than adapt therapies developed in high-resource environments for use in sub-Saharan African locations that are more strapped for resources — an approach that Collins says has generally been difficult — this partnership will start with a focus on affordability and accessibility and will work with patient advocates and researchers in Africa. He notes that current gene-therapy approaches require bone marrow ablation and often an intense hospital stay, which might not be practical in some parts of the world like sub-Saharan Africa in addition to being expensive.

But if they can figure out a way to do this more affordably, it would help not only populations in sub-Saharan Africa, but also other parts of the world, including the US. "If the new one-stop, gene-based approaches prove as safe and effective as higher-tech systems, who wouldn't choose the more convenient, less costly option?" Collins writes.