The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged that it will spend billions of dollars in the search for a coronavirus vaccine. Plans are to invest money in building factories to develop several promising vaccinations. Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist is one of the wealthiest people in the world.
The announcement arrived following Gates' appearance on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. "Our early money can accelerate things," he remarked. "Even though we'll end up picking at most two of them, we're going to fund factories for all seven, just so that we don't waste time in serially saying which vaccine works and then building the factory." He went on to point out how investing a few billion now could save a trillion-dollar economic disaster due to a prolonged outbreak.
"To get to the best case" of vaccine deployment in about 18 months, Gates said, "we need to do safety and efficacy and build manufacturing" simultaneously. He acknowledged the plan would result in the loss of "a few billion dollars" on projects that don't pan out.
Earlier in March, Gates' foundation announced it would invest $125 million to identify and advance treatments for COVID-19, though this new announcement builds on this initial pledge.
There are already dozens of COVID-19 vaccine projects underway. Moderna has begun Phase 1 clinical trials for its vaccination and is preparing for Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials to start, if successful.
At the time of publication, there have been almost 1.6 million globally recorded COVID-19 cases, with over 94,000 deaths. Nearly 400,000 people have recovered from the virus.
Gates is no stranger to vaccine research and development, with his foundation having worked on infectious disease research before. Previously, the Gates Foundation took on polio hoping to make it the second disease erased from the planet - the first was smallpox. Researchers established this would cost $200 million, so Gates doubled his investment by handing over $400 million. Since then, cases in Nigeria have gone from over 700 per year to fewer than 30 cases annually in less than a decade. A representative from the foundation told Inc., the country hasn't seen a single case since 2016.