Washington, Jan. 27 (Reuters): Saying that medical science has solved the “easy” problems of the rich world, Microsoft founder Bill Gates yesterday announced a $200 million fund aimed at luring researchers into finding original cures for the poor world’s ailments.
The $200 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be used to set up the “Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative” which will dole out money in grants of up to $20 million each to scientists around the world.
“By accelerating research to overcome scientific obstacles in AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, millions of lives could be saved,” Gates said in a telephone interview. “Of the, say, 1,500 new medicines that have been approved in the last 25 years, only 20 of those have related to the diseases of the developing countries,” added Gates, who was to announce the new fund at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Rich world diseases we’ve gotten. All the easy ones have been done ... If you look at the focus of the research activity, it’s either focused specifically on rich world diseases or it’s at a basic level that doesn’t directly apply to those problems.”
According to the Global Forum on Health Research, only 10 per cent of medical research centers on the diseases that cause 90 per cent of the health burden in the world. The programme will be administered by the US National Institutes of Health Foundation and the new fund is heavy on big names in US science. It will be headed by Dr Harold Varmus, a former NIH director who is now President of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.