Northern Ireland

Bill Gates gives Almac $200,000 for contraceptive project

A scientist working in a lab.
Image caption The money will be used to reduce the cost of ingredients in the contraceptive implant

Craigavon-based pharmaceutical group Almac has been given $200,000 (£150,000) by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The money will help fund a project to cut the cost of ingredients in contraceptives making them affordable to women in the developing world.

In a statement to the press, the firm initially announced an award of $1m for Almac but later amended it to $200,000.

The project will focus on a drug called Etonorgestrel.

It is normally delivered via an implant and currently costs about $200,000 (£150,000) per kg.

Almac aims to reduce the cost to $5,000 (£3,800) per kg.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the charity established by the founder of Microsoft.

In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health.

The overall scope of the contraceptives' project is $1m, but $200,000 is coming from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Making medicines affordable

Dr Stefan Mix, Head of Biocatalysis at Almac Sciences, developed the idea and will lead a team of three dedicated scientists through the initial proof-of-concept stage.

Upon successful completion of that stage, the team will increase in size involving additional biologists and chemists over the next two years.

The project will begin in January 2020 with the initial phase expected to last for at least three months.

Dr Mix said: "We are very pleased to have the opportunity to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in deploying Almac's biocatalysis expertise to make essential medicines more affordable for humanity."

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