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

PHOTO: Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks at a panel discussion on Building Human Capital during the IMF/World Bank spring meeting in Washington, April 21, 2018.PlayYuri Gripas/Reuters
WATCH Longer lasting flu vaccine is being tested in clinical trials

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.

PHOTO: Bill and Melinda Gates talk with Robin Roberts about the goals of their Foundation, which works to help people improve their health, lift themselves out of poverty and get the best possible education, Feb. 26, 2016. Ida Mae Astute/ABC
Bill and Melinda Gates talk with Robin Roberts about the goals of their Foundation, which works to help people improve their health, lift themselves out of poverty and get the best possible education, Feb. 26, 2016.

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.

PHOTO: Bill Gates makes a speech at the Malaria Summit on the third day of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, April 18, 2018.Dominic Lipinski/AFP/Getty Images
Bill Gates makes a speech at the Malaria Summit on the third day of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, April 18, 2018.

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.

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