Bill Gates Fortune Used to Wage War on Malaria

Tom Paulson
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter
May 31, 2001

The creatures descend from the sky, their hovering transports hidden under cover of darkness, to launch an invasion on Earth. Silently, simultaneously, millions of people are attacked.

The invaders are clever. They can change form to avoid identification. They use human bodies as incubators, seeding them with spores and using human blood to feed their deadly spawn. Millions die as the creatures continue to spread across the planet.

If this was a science fiction movie, the military might send out a crack team of super-soldiers equipped with high-tech gizmos to find the creatures and blast them into oblivion.

But this is reality, the entrenched and agonizing problem of malaria—an ancient mosquito-borne parasitic invasion that goes on daily. The scourge is on the rise again worldwide, claiming anywhere from 1 million to 3 million lives per year.

Given the threat, the U.S. Army did send out a crack team to do battle. But it was sent to Seattle, armed with microscopes, cell cultures, computers, and funding from Bill Gates. Malaria is one of the fronts in a new war on Third World diseases supported by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Gates has just electrified the field," said Patrick Duffy, an expert on malaria at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, D.C.

Working on the Perfect Weapon

Duffy is on loan from the military's top biomedical research institution to help Seattle scientists work on the perfect weapon against the global killer—a malaria vaccine.

He and colleagues from Walter Reed will work with the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, a private organization located at the north end of Queen Anne that specializes in infectious diseases of the developing world.

The institute recently received a U.S. $5 million grant from the Gates Foundation to identify new targets for a malaria vaccine. It was a big boost for the small, nonprofit firm but just a fraction of what Gates has done for malaria research worldwide.

The Gates Foundation has committed more than U.S. $100 million so far: $50 million to launch a malaria vaccine initiative; $40 million to a malaria research program at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; and $25 million to Medicines for Malaria Venture, a public-private project promoting malaria drug treatments.

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