Gates doubles funding for health initiative

Microsoft's chairman wants to overcome the "tragic inequity between the health of people in the developed world" and everyone else.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will increase its contribution to a global health initiative by $250 million, the Microsoft chairman said Monday.

The change means the foundation will more than double the size of its contribution to Grand Challenges in Global Health, bringing its total commitment to $450 million.

The initiative, which was founded in 2003 with a Gates Foundation grant, is jointly administered by the Gates organization and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. The Grand Challenges initiative focuses on 14 major scientific challenges, such as "Prepare vaccines that do not require refrigeration" and "Create a full range of optimal, bioavailable nutrients in a single staple plant species."

Gates spoke about the new funding while addressing the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

"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 in a statement. "I am here to talk about how the world, working together, can dramatically reduce this inequity."

In his speech, Gates outlined four priorities.

One priority calls on all governments to increase their efforts and contributions to improving global health--and matching that commitment to the scope of the crisis.

Gates also cited the need to direct more research toward fighting illnesses and diseases in developing countries.

Two other areas of priority, he said, include finding a means to deliver tools that address health issues, especially in developing countries, and creating a market that will prompt companies to invest in medical research for developing countries.

The Gates Foundation, which has an endowment of about $28 billion, focuses on global health as one of four priorities. Last December, the foundation distributed a $42.5 million grant for the study of synthetic biology to three institutions: the University of California, Berkeley; the Institute for OneWorld Health; and upstart Amyris Biotechnologies.

The foundation's three other priorities are education, public libraries, and support for at-risk families in Washington state and Oregon.

 

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