The US government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged Wednesday to jointly invest $200 million over the next four years to achieve affordable gene therapy-based cures for sickle cell disease (SCD) and HIV.

The administration of President Donald Trump announced earlier this year its intention to end the HIV epidemic over the next decade and has also identified SCD, which disproportionately affects people of African descent, as a condition requiring greater attention.

Gene therapy is a relatively new area of medicine designed to replace faulty genes in the body that are responsible for a disorder and has been responsible for new treatments for blindness and certain types of leukaemia.

But the treatments are complex and costly, ruling them out as an option for most of the world.

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said the collaboration would focus therefore on “access, scalability and affordability” to make sure the eventual treatments are available globally.

The NIH and Gates Foundation aim to achieve clinical trials in the United States and countries in sub-Saharan Africa within the next seven to 10 years.

Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders characterized by the presence of an abnormal protein in the red blood cells, causing the feet and hands to swell, fatigue, jaundice, and episodic or chronic pain.

Over time the disease can harm a patients’ vital organs, bones, joints and skin and it is currently only curable via a blood and bone marrow transplant, available to only a tiny fraction of people who have the disease.

When it comes to HIV, antiretroviral therapy (ART) are now able to reduce patients’ viral load to the point that they are undetectable and cannot be further transmitted

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