BILLIONAIRE Bill Gates said his foundation will spend billions of dollars to fund the construction of factories to develop a vaccine to combat the novel coronavirus.
The billionaire philanthropist announced the plans on “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” on Thursday, acknowledging that billions of dollars would be “wasted on vaccines that won’t pan out”.
Gates, who is one of the richest people in the world, announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will work with seven makers of a possible vaccine to build the factories.
“Our early money can accelerate things,” Gates explained.
“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.”
A representative for the Gates foundation didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.
The deadly disease has now infected more than 1.2 million and killed around 70,000 people across the world.
The pandemic sparked a scrambled search for an effective treatment to prevent more lives being lost.
And Zuckerberg and Gates have now thrown their combined financial weight behind the scientists’ efforts.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation organized a research project, called the Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.
It aims to find and test antiviral drugs that could be used to combat the virus.
Facebook founder Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are putting $25million from their tech and science research company, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), towards the scheme.
The Therapeutics Accelerator will let researchers quickly determine whether existing drugs could be used as a treatment for Covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
Zuckerberg told CBS: “Part of the idea is that a single drug can often be used against multiple diseases.
“So you can basically take all those drugs that have already been screened as safe and test them to see if they might also have a positive impact for either preventing the coronavirus or reducing the symptoms and making it less damaging.”
If an existing drug was proved to be effective against Covid-19, it would be much faster than creating a new one from scratch and producing enough for everyone around the world that needs it.
Zuckerberg and Chan said in a statement: “We’re excited to partner with the Gates Foundation, Wellcome and Mastercard to help the biomedical research community quickly identify, develop, and test treatments for COVID-19.”
The Gates Foundation also tweeted about the partnership on Friday, saying “collaboration is key in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” and that it is “excited” to be working with CZI.
When the initiative was launched, Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman pleaded for funding from “governments, private enterprise and philanthropic organizations”.
He said: “If we want to make the world safe from outbreaks like Covid-19, particularly for those most vulnerable, then we need to find a way to make research and development move faster.”
The two billionaires have already made significant efforts to help contain the virus by donating millions in cash and equipment, as well as running social media campaigns.
Facebook rolled out a $100million grant program and other initiatives on March 17 and 18 to help fight the pandemic.
The money will go toward 30,000 eligible small businesses around the globe in the form of cash and ad credits.
Gates has also put a total of $100million towards the effort and has been using his platform to raise awareness about the virus.