Bill Gates is donating $12 million to fund research for a universal flu vaccine.
The billionaire spoke Friday at the annual meeting for the Massachusetts Society of Medicine in Boston, where he announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is partnering with Google co-founder and Alphabet CEO Larry Page and his wife, Lucy Page, for research on the vaccine, Quartz reported.
"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.
This simple intervention could be an effective and scalable approach to saving children’s lives. https://t.co/XSo2vOUjPS— Bill Gates (@BillGates) April 27, 2018
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.