Gates Foundation To Provide Additional $250M for Global Health ProgramMicrosoft founder Bill Gates at the opening of the 58th World Health Assembly in Geneva on Monday announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide an additional $250 million for efforts to solve "some of the world's knottiest health problems," the New York Times reports. The money will go to Grand Challenges in Global Health, an initiative that already has received $200 million from the Gates Foundation to establish a competition "intended to entice" scientists, researchers and inventors to find "groundbreaking" solutions to global health issues, according to the Times (Strom, New York Times, 5/17). GCGH focuses on 14 areas of prevention and treatment research into diseases that affect the developing world, including the creation and improvement of vaccines, implementation of disease surveillance systems and improvement of nutrition (Jack, Financial Times, 5/17). More than 70 countries have submitted about 1,500 proposals addressing GCGH's 14 specified areas, and almost 450 scientists have been asked to submit grant proposals. The initiative -- which is jointly administered by the Gates Foundation and NIH -- expects to award its first of a total of $450 million in grants late next month (Song, Seattle Times, 5/17).
Challenging Developed World, Private Sector
Gates, who is the first corporate leader to address the assembly, criticized rich governments, the private sector and developing countries for not doing enough to fight "neglected diseases" of the developing world, including malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, the Financial Times reports (Financial Times, 5/17). Gates "issued a challenge" to wealthy and poor nations to pledge more resources to major health crises and to make world markets and health care delivery systems "function better for the poor," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The world is failing billions of people" because rich countries and private industry "neglect developing world scourges," such as malaria and tuberculosis, that have been controlled in the developed world, Gates said, according to the Journal (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 5/17). He added that he was "stunned" by the inequities in health conditions between poor and rich countries. "Another way of putting that is that we treat the value of human lives equally and say we're willing to invent the medicines and spend the money to make sure that children survive and we get rid of these epidemic diseases" (AP/USA Today, 5/16). He added, "If these epidemics were raging in the developed world, people with resources would see the suffering and insist that we stop it. But sometimes it seems that the rich world can't even see the developing world" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/16).
Gates said that innovation is key to improving health worldwide, noting that some HIV-positive people used to take 20 pills daily to treat their infection, and now they might take three pills daily. "Today, we have tuberculosis drugs that you have to take for nine months," he said, asking, "Why can't we find one that works in three days?" (Seattle Times, 5/17). "We are on the verge of taking historic steps to reduce disease in the developing world ... (if) we match these accelerating capacities of science with the emerging moral awareness of global health inequities," Gates said (Reuters, 5/16). He added, "I'm convinced that we will see more groundbreaking scientific advances for health in the developing world in the next 10 years than we have seen in the last 50. Some point to the better health in the developed world and say that the only sure way to improve health is to eliminate poverty. We have a different view. The world didn't have to eliminate poverty in order to eliminate smallpox, and we don't have to reduce poverty before we reduce malaria" (New York Times, 5/17). Gates was expected to announce additional funding for malaria vaccine development with British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, but negotiations have not yet concluded, according to the Financial Times (Financial Times, 5/17).