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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helps launch Cambridge vaccine company

File photo: Jim Watson of AFP/Getty Images

Bill Gates

Globe Staff 

Affinivax Inc., a Cambridge biotechnology company seeking to develop vaccines, announced its launch Thursday with a $4 million investment by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The foundation’s commitment goes beyond the $4 million in seed financing: It includes additional investments in Affinivax based on the company’s reaching certain milestones.

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The funding will be used to develop Affinivax’s Multiple Antigen Presenting System (MAPS) technology platform and enable the development of vaccines to protect children and adults in the developed and developing worlds, with an initial focus on Streptococcus pneumoniae.

“It is unacceptable that pneumonia remains the leading cause of death among children under 5,” said Trevor Mundel, president of the global health unit at the Gates Foundation.

The company has also secured an exclusive license from Boston Children’s Hospital for intellectual property related to MAPS. The platform was initially developed at Children’s by Dr. Richard Malley, Affinivax’s scientific founder.

Bill Gates has backed Boston-area companies before. One of his investments was in Foundation Medicine, a Cambridge company that specializes in genomic testing for cancer patients.

Bill Gates is the cofounder and former chief executive of Microsoft Corp.