The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged one of the largest donations in history to support vaccination around the world Jan. 29.
The foundation will donate $10 billion toward the development and distribution of vaccines. Bill Gates estimates that the initiative will save the lives of 8 million children around the world, particularly in developing countries, The New York Times reported.
Representatives from the Duke Global Health Institute and the Duke Human Vaccine Institute were excited to hear about the pledge.
“It’s very exciting and wonderful that the Gates Foundation has decided to provide this support for vaccine development and implementation,” said Dr. John Bartlett, DGHI’s associate director of research. “Around the world for children under the age of five, mortality due to infectious diseases can be a significant problem. Any means that we can undertake to diminish this mortality can be a tremendous advance.”
Bartlett added that resources provided by the Gates Foundation could bring great advances to the development of vaccines for diseases that did not previously have any immunizations, such as HIV, AIDS and malaria.
Dr. Barton Haynes, director of DHVI, said Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, Trinity ‘86, Fuqua ‘87 and a former member of Duke’s Board of Trustees, continue to make important contributions in global health.
“Bill and Melinda Gates have really changed the dialogue globally not only about global health but particularly about the need to get vaccines in the developed countries to the developing world,” Haynes said. “They have recognized a void where their foundation can make the greatest impact. The void is that vaccines are made and developed in developed countries, but there are people all over the world who don’t have the vaccines.”
Duke has enjoyed close ties with the Gates Foundation in the past and is already benefiting from its support, Haynes said. In 2007, for example, the University debuted DukeEngage after receiving $15 million of support from the foundation.
He added that he is optimistic about how the Gates Foundation will benefit the practice of medicine.
“They are very committed to taking good ideas and getting these ideas translated. They are very into translational medicine—translating good, basic ideas and getting the ideas to the clinic and to people as fast as possible,” Haynes said.
Haynes said interested students could get involved in developing and distributing vaccines through Duke Global Health Institute or by being selected to work in Duke Human Vaccines Institute laboratories.
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