The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates and the Canadian government are to fund the development of an AIDS vaccine.

They are jointly committing $110 million to the project, it has been announced.

They will establish a new research institute, the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative. Its goal is to find a vaccine within a decade.

Canadian PM Stephen Harper has pledged $95.3 million, while the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has promised up to $24 million.

As well as creating a new research facility, the money will enable Canadian scientists to work with other medical professionals from around the world, and manufacture experimental vaccines for clinical trials worldwide.

“HIV/AIDS is one of the most heart-wrenching health crises the world has ever seen,” Harper said on Tuesday.

“It is one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time. Between Canada and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we will contribute to the effort to develop a safe, effective, affordable and globally accessible HIV vaccine.”

Bill Gates explained that the Canadian initiative is part of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, an international alliance of independent organisations dedicated to the development of a preventative HIV vaccine.

”At that time, we recognised that no single company or government alone could take on this challenge, that in fact a number of organisations would need to work together,” he said.

Gates’s foundation has focused on fighting AIDS, other epidemic diseases and poverty in the developing world.

The Microsoft co-founder announced that the number of HIV-positive people receiving antiretroviral treatment has increased to 1.4 million, thanks to the success of partnerships between governments and the private sector, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

“But that still falls very far short of the number of new people being infected each year,” he said.

“I think scientists would agree that this will be one of the toughest vaccines ever to create, but it therefore needs to be a priority.”

The Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise estimates there were nearly 5 million new HIV infections in 2005, and that nearly 40 million people in the world are currently living with HIV/AIDS.