updated 9/14/2006 6:50:52 PM ET 2006-09-14T22:50:52

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Thursday that four grants totaling more than $68.2 million would go to fight three tropical diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people each year in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Most of the money will be used to develop vaccines and treatments for parasite- and worm-transmitted hookworm, leishmaniasis and trypanosomiasis.

The Seattle-based Infectious Disease Research Institute will get the largest grant, $32 million, to speed up development of a vaccine for leishmaniasis, which affects 12 million people worldwide and kills thousands each year, according to the World Health Organization.

The other grants announced Thursday include: $13.8 million to the Sabin Vaccine Institute of Washington, D.C., to develop a vaccine to prevent hookworm; $21.3 million to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to develop effective, inexpensive drugs to treat the late stages of leishmaniasis and trypanosomiasis; and $1.1 million to the Public Library of Science to launch a new medical journal on neglected diseases.

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