Bill Gates issued a challenge for both the U.S. government and medical scientists. He wants a universal cure for the flu.
The $12 Million Challenge
On Friday, April 27, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Lucy and Larry Page announced a brand-new initiative with the Sabin Vaccine Institute. Their latest venture, Ending the Pandemic Threat: A Grand Challenge for Universal Influenza Vaccine Development, will focus on finding the solution to end the flu virus. The Gates Foundation and the Page Family are looking for scientists that have ideas on how to deal with all types of influenza. The challenge is accepting all ideas that produce safe and affordable flu vaccines. According to STAT News, Gates stated that at the beginning of the project, grants would range out to $250,000 and $2 million.
Talking With President Trump
Gates boldly claimed in a new interview with the Washington Post that the U.S. leadership has not shown any initiative when it comes to preparing for a potentially lethal form of the influenza virus. The Microsoft cofounder stated that he did have several conversations about this potential pandemic with President Trump. After hearing about this potential threat, President Trump told Gates to talk with several governmental agencies.
Despite a meeting with President Trump's former national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, Gates believes that it would take a severe amount of time to influence the Trump administration to move faster on finding a way to prevent this pandemic from coming. Gates also commented that he also needed to talk to Congress to move this initiative forward.
Preparing For The Fight
Gates presented some of his findings at the Massachusetts Medical Society. In addition to his speech, Gates brought a simulation with him that showcased attendees what would happen if a monstrous strain of influenza hits the globe. The simulation, designed by the Institute for Disease Modeling, mimicked the 1918 Spanish Flu and showcased what would have happened if the virus hit today. By the end of the simulation, nearly 33 million people died from the virus without proper vaccination. Gates revealed at his presentation that they need to find other ways of keeping people immune.
"So, we need to invest in other approaches, like antiviral drugs and antibody therapies that can be stockpiled or rapidly manufactured to stop the spread of pandemic diseases or treat people who have been exposed," said Gates in a statement to The Washington Post.
Revisiting The Flu Season
Gates' warnings about the pandemic flu, his startling findings, and the grand challenge come after the deadly 2017-2018 flu season peaked. However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that a second flu wave could be coming, and the strand Influenza B might have a severe impact on younger children.
Before the Gates Foundation announced their initiative to find a universal influenza vaccine, another organization announced plans to work on one. On Feb. 28, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced their intentions in an article in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. The organization stated that it was creating an exceptional team of scientists that will focus on developing the vaccine.
During the height of the 2017-2018 flu season, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 12-2 to bring the nasal flu vaccine, FluMist, back to the United States. While the Food and Drug Administration still approved of the spray, FluMist was removed from the U.S. market in 2016 following its inability to fight the H1N1 virus.