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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said Monday that billionaire Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates and his wife had given $5 billion to the fund, bringing its assets to $21.8 billion.

The fund, which committed nearly $2 billion to charities in last year, must give away at least 5 percent of its endowment each year to maintain its status as a tax-exempt charitable organization.

"Particular attention will go toward accelerating the development and distribution of life-saving vaccines," said Patty Stonesifer, co-chairman of the foundation with Gates' father, William Gates Sr.

In 1999, the Gateses pledged $1 billion to fund minority scholarships and $750 million for children's vaccines.

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