SEATTLE, Wash., April 3 /PRNewswire/ -- PATH today announced a new program aimed at preventing pneumonia, a major childhood illness that causes the deaths of up to one million children every year-primarily in developing countries. The program will seek a vaccine that is capable of addressing a broad range of strains of pneumococcus, a bacterium that causes pneumonia. PATH, an international nonprofit organization with over 27 years of global health experience, will work with public- and private-sector partners to identify and test promising pneumococcal vaccines. The five-year effort is supported by a US$75 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. PATH's pneumococcal vaccine effort builds on work begun in 2005 to produce protein-derived vaccines to prevent strains of pneumococcus not addressed by existing vaccines. The approach is aimed at identifying proteins that are common to most strains of pneumococcus, then systematically testing these in the lab. The hypothesis is that a new vaccine or combination of vaccines containing "common proteins" could protect against the majority of types of pneumococcus. A vaccine that can confer broad immunity holds the potential to deliver the most effective protection to children worldwide. John Boslego, MD, will lead PATH's pneumococcal vaccine development. Boslego joined PATH in February 2006 after leading vaccine development at Merck and Co., Inc. Boslego said, "We hope this new effort will encourage as many scientists and manufacturers as possible to advance their research toward preventing this childhood disease. Pneumonia is a familiar household word, and the world can do a lot to prevent childhood deaths, especially in developing countries, by coming up with solutions to prevent it." He added, "We are hoping to shorten the timeline for getting these vaccines to the areas in greatest need." Regina Rabinovich, MD, MPH, director of infectious diseases for the Gates Foundation, said, "Pneumococcal disease is a major global health problem, killing or disabling up to 40 percent of the children who contract it in the developing world." She added, "Innovation and collaboration are key to developing effective pneumococcal vaccines for global health, and we're pleased to support PATH in this critical effort." Other partners active in this field include the Pneumococcal Accelerated Development and Introduction Plan (PneumoADIP), based at Johns Hopkins University, a program of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and other public sector partners, vaccine manufacturers, and academic and research institutions. The PATH program will be centered on upstream activities, i.e.; working from discovery to preclinical testing to clinical trials, with an expectation that new and promising vaccines will reach the developing world in the shortest amount of time possible. The timing of this announcement coincides with a major meeting of scientists, pharmaceutical representatives, and other leading experts on pneumococcal disease that is taking place in Alice Springs, Australia. World experts meeting there are sharing their knowledge and research findings about the global epidemiology and burden of pneumococcal disease, and identifying tools to prevent and control the disease. Experts plan to announce a call for "Development of a Global Action Plan Against Pneumonia" on April 6, 2006. PATH is an international, nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions that enable communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. PATH works with partners on several new vaccine development and introduction programs, including those centered on prevention of malaria, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis, and meningococcal meningitis, among other global health priorities. By collaborating with diverse public- and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. PATH's work improves global health and well-being. Visit www.path.org.