At World Health Assembly, outlines actions for governments, researchers, private sector and announces new $250 million Gates Foundation commitment for global health research
Geneva, 16 May 2005 - In a major address today to international health officials, Bill
Gates said the world now has a "historic chance" to achieve dramatic improvements in
health, and called on governments, the scientific community, and the private sector to more
aggressively fight the diseases that affect hundreds of millions of the world's poorest
people each year.
Emphasizing the urgent need to accelerate research on neglected diseases, Gates also
announced that the Gates Foundation will more than double funding for the Grand Challenges
in Global Health initiative, an effort launched in 2003 to develop solutions to 14 major
scientific challenges that, if solved, could lead to breakthrough advances in global
health. The foundation will provide an additional $250 million for the initiative, bringing
its total commitment to $450 million.
Gates Speech Outlines Four Priorities for Improving Global Health
"I'm an optimist," Gates said in his plenary speech to the World Health Assembly, an
annual gathering of the world's top health officials. "We have a historic chance to build a
world where all people, no matter where they're born, can have the preventive care,
vaccines, and treatments they need to live a healthy life."
"There is a tragic inequity between the health of people in the developed world and the
health of those in the rest of the world," Gates said. "I am here to talk about how the
world, working together, can dramatically reduce this inequity. Never before have we had
anything close to the tools we have today to both spread awareness of the problem and
discover and deliver solutions."
Gates called for action on four priorities for improving global
- Political leadership: All governments, both rich and poor, must significantly
increase their efforts to improve global health, and match their commitments to the
scale of the crisis.
- Research: Much more scientific research must be directed toward developing
solutions for the diseases that primarily affect developing countries.
- Delivery: Far greater attention and funding should be devoted to delivering the
health tools that exist today, and to designing new health tools that are practical and
affordable for the developing world.
- Market incentives: Governments must create guaranteed markets to provide the
private sector with incentives to invest in the discovery and delivery of health tools
for the developing world.
Gates Foundation More Than Doubles Funding for Grand Challenges
Also today, Gates announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide
$250 million in new funding for the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, which was
established to support world class research on the diseases that disproportionately affect
people in the developing world. The initiative, which was launched in 2003 with an initial
Gates Foundation commitment of $200 million, addresses a major imbalance in health research
funding. Of the billions of dollars spent worldwide each year to develop new vaccines,
drugs, and other health tools, only a fraction is focused on diseases that primarily affect
This summer, the initiative will announce its first round of grants to fund an array of
innovative research and development efforts, selected from more than 1,500 proposed
projects from 75 countries. Gates said that the foundation decided to double funding for
the Grand Challenges initiative in order to fund more of the high-quality research
proposals it has received from the international scientific community.
"The overwhelming response demonstrates that when scientists are given a chance to study
questions that could save millions of lives, they eagerly rise to the challenge," Gates
said, urging governments and other donors to also increase their investments in global
health research. "There is tremendous untapped potential in the scientific community to
address the diseases of the developing world. We've barely scratched the surface of what's
The Grand Challenges initiative is administered jointly by the Foundation for the
National Institutes of Health and the Gates Foundation, and guided by an Executive
Committee of preeminent scientists chaired by Nobel Laureate Dr. Harold Varmus, President
and CEO of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and former Director of
the National Institutes of Health.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to promote greater equity in four areas:
global health, education, public libraries, and support for at-risk families in Washington
state and Oregon. The Seattle-based foundation joins local, national, and international
partners to ensure that advances in these areas reach those who need them most. The
foundation is led by Bill Gates's father, William H. Gates Sr., and Patty Stonesifer.