Bill Gates Donated $12 Million to Develop a Universal Flu Vaccine and Trump Offered Him a Job
Gates’ foundation aims to fund revolutionary projects.
On Friday, Bill Gates announced a commitment of $12 million to the development of a universal flu vaccine at a talk on epidemics organized by the Massachusetts Medical Society and the New England Journal of Medicine.
The Universal Influenza Vaccine Development Grand Challenge will be funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Google co-founder Larry Page and his wife, Lucy, are also contributing funds.
“We think a universal flu vaccine would not only eliminate the pandemic risk, but would have significant health benefits,” Gates told STAT in an interview, before he announced the funding. “It would be a fantastic thing.”
Gates’ foundation aims to fund revolutionary projects when it comes to the creation of this super shot, as opposed to working to improve existing ones, according to STAT.
Creating a universal flu vaccine is an ambitious goal, as the flu evades even the best attempts to eliminate it. Because it is constantly mutating, it is difficult to target fully with a vaccine.
Grant recipients will be tasked with creating a vaccine that is ready for human trial by 2021.
In the pilot phase, individual grants of $250,000 to $2 million will be paid out over two years.
Scientists who produce encouraging results in animal studies may then be able to apply for another $10 million, according to STAT.
“This is the early-stage money,” Gates told STAT. “This $12 million isn’t the end of the game.”
The announcement comes with a warning about pandemics, as this year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1918 influenza pandemic, which infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide and killed somewhere between 20 million to 50 million.
The 1918 influenza pandemic, also known as the Spanish flu, was the most devastating pandemic in modern history.
A pandemic outbreak like that now would kill 33 million people in its first six months, according to Gates.
Gates then said he suggested to Trump that the US ought to have a science adviser in place — and then Trump asked him if he wanted the job.
Gates turned down the offer.
“That’s not a good use of my time,” he reportedly told the president.
The science adviser position in the White House remains vacant. The current de facto science adviser and top-ranking science official is Michael Kratsios, a political science major with no background in science, according to Vanity Fair.
Gates and Trump’s first two meetings broached many subjects, but this last meeting was hyper-focused on global health security, according to STAT.
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