A team of researchers made a "major breakthrough" by inventing a far more cost-effective way to manufacture a widely used AIDS drug to be potentially be used in countries with emerging economies, such as South Africa. 

The AIDS drug, nevirapine, is used to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. 

"We completed the first phase and we've gotten the chemistry to where it's probably the lowest-cost process you could imagine, using really cheap, inexpensive raw materials and streamlining the chemistry for the process," lead researcher B. Frank Gupton said in the study. "We've reported our results to the Gates Foundation and I believe that they were very pleased with our progress." 

The team of researchers - from University of Washington, Florida State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - were part of the Medicine for All Initiative, funded by a $4.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reported Medical Xpress

"We've had a major breakthrough," Gupton told Medical Xpress. "We have developed a much more cost-effective way to produce this drug." 

Now that this first phase of the project is completed, the researchers plan to transfer the technology to the Clinton Foundation, which will outsource the improvements to existing pharmaceutical manufacturers, reported Medical Xpress. While that is in progress the researchers will continue to work to automate the process so the drug could be produced anywhere. 

AIDS continues to be a world epidemic, as there were 35 million people living with the virus in the world at the end of 2013, according to a World Health Organization statistic