Bill Gates, earlier today, April 27th, at a symposium in Boston called Epidemics Going Viral: Innovation Vs. Nature, put together by the Massachusetts Medical Society and the New England Journal of Medicine.
“There’s one area, though, where the world isn’t making much progress. And the story is actually quite a negative one if we don’t get serious about it. And that’s pandemic preparedness. It should concern us all, because history has taught us there will be another deadly global pandemic.”
This year is the 100th anniversary of the pandemic flu that is estimated to have infected a half billion people and killed between 50 and 100 million. And a pandemic flu remains a serious threat. We currently have to create a new, seasonal vaccine annually, based on a best estimate of the specifics of the upcoming flu. So one goal has long been to create a vaccine against all variations of the flu virus.
“Today we’re launching a $12 million Grand Challenge, in partnership with the Page family, to accelerate the development of a universal flu vaccine. The goal is to encourage bold thinking by the world’s best scientists across disciplines, including those new to the field. Lucy and Larry Page are also supporting efforts by the Sabin Vaccine Institute to encourage innovative approaches that eliminate the threat of a deadly flu pandemic.”
Larry Page is one of the founders of Google.
Of course, flu is not the only threat out there.
“The next threat may not be flu at all. More than likely it will be an unknown pathogen that we see for the first time during an outbreak. As was the case with SARS, MERS and other recently discovered infectious diseases.”
And vaccines are not enough.
“So, we need to invest in other approaches, like antiviral drugs or antibody therapies that can be stockpiled or rapidly manufactured to stop the spread of the disease or treat people who’ve been exposed…we need a clear roadmap for a comprehensive pandemic preparedness and response system. This is important because lives, in numbers too great to comprehend, depend on it.”
(The above text is a transcript of this podcast)