The foundation created by U.S. billionaire Bill Gates is awarding nearly $300 million ($287 million) to fund efforts to develop a vaccine to combat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says the money will go to 165 scientists in 19 countries - all currently working independently on vaccine development.

The grants will help build a collaborative network for scientists to openly share their data and compare findings.

The foundation is supporting a two-track approach to the vaccine project: one group of scientists is trying to find a way to produce antibodies that would neutralize an HIV infection; another is working on a "cellular immunity" approach to the problem, trying to produce specialized cells that will seek out and destroy an invading virus. A future vaccine may combine both approaches.

Bill Gates is a founder of the U.S. computer software giant Microsoft. He and his wife, Melinda, created their charitable foundation in 2000. Its endowment doubled in size last month, to 60 billion dollars, when U.S. investor Warren Buffett announced a major portion of his wealth would go to the foundation.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.