Bill Gates to donate $12 million to fund research for universal flu vaccine

The billionaire has recently been speaking out on the importance of vaccines.

Bill Gates is donating $12 million to fund research for a universal flu vaccine.

"To broaden efforts even further, today we are launching a $12 million Grand Challenge in partnership with the Page family to accelerate the development of a universal flu vaccine," Gates said in his remarks. "The goal is to encourage bold thinking by the world’s best scientists across disciplines, including those new to the field."

One hundred years ago, the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic killed 50 million worldwide, Gates said, estimating that an outbreak of the same scale would kill 30 million people in six months.

Clinical trials for a universal flu vaccine are expected to begin soon, Gates said.

Gates has been vocal on social media in recent days about the importance of vaccines in global health.

At the talk in Boston, Gates compared the need to prepare for a pandemic in the same way a military prepares for war, emphasizing the need to improve generic antiviral drugs that can be distributed widely to lower the chances of as many people as possible from getting sick.

The Universal Influenza Vaccine Development Grand Challenge aims to "identify novel, transformative concepts that will lead to development of universal influenza vaccines offering protection from morbidity and mortality caused by all subtypes" of the flu, according to the foundation.