Gates Foundation Ups Ante

    May 17, 2005

Bill Gates put his money where his mouth is by upping his donation to $450 million to the Grand Challenges in Global Health program. In an address to the World Health Assembly, Gates told about his ideas for world health.

“I’m an optimist,” Gates said in his plenary speech to the World Health Assembly, an annual gathering of the world’s top health officials. “We have a historic chance to build a world where all people, no matter where they’re born, can have the preventive care, vaccines, and treatments they need to live a healthy life.”

“There is a tragic inequity between the health of people in the developed world and the health of those in the rest of the world,” Gates said. “I am here to talk about how the world, working together, can dramatically reduce this inequity. Never before have we had anything close to the tools we have today to both spread awareness of the problem and discover and deliver solutions.”

This summer, the initiative will announce its first round of grants to fund an array of innovative research and development efforts, selected from more than 1,500 proposed projects from 75 countries. Gates said that the foundation decided to double funding for the Grand Challenges initiative in order to fund more of the high-quality research proposals it has received from the international scientific community.

“The overwhelming response demonstrates that when scientists are given a chance to study questions that could save millions of lives, they eagerly rise to the challenge,” Gates said, urging governments and other donors to also increase their investments in global health research. “There is tremendous untapped potential in the scientific community to address the diseases of the developing world. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible.”

Gates outlined 4 specific areas of that need to be addressed in working on these global health solutions.

They include:

* Political leadership: All governments, both rich and poor, must significantly increase their efforts to improve global health, and
match their commitments to the scale of the crisis.

* Research: Much more scientific research must be directed toward
developing solutions for the diseases that primarily affect developing

* Delivery: Far greater attention and funding should be devoted to
delivering the health tools that exist today, and to designing new
health tools that are practical and affordable for the developing

* Market incentives: Governments must create guaranteed markets to
provide the private sector with incentives to invest in the discovery

With these points, Gates believes the world could work to defeat global health problems.

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.