The first step in developing a vaccine for coronavirus lies with the scientists and researchers who are rapidly working to identify and test one that works. However, once there is a working vaccine, producing it at scale presents another problem. In response to the latter issue, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced that it will be funding the construction of seven factories to produces different vaccine candidates – even though this means wasting billions of dollars.
Simultaneous testing and building manufacturing capacity is essential to the quick development of a vaccine, according to Bill Gates, who spoke about the project with Trevor Noah on ‘The Daily Show’ recently.
The Foundation will pick the top seven vaccine candidates and build manufacturing capacity for them.
‘Even though we’ll end up picking at most two of them, we’re going to fund factories for all seven, just so that we don’t waste time in serially saying, ‘OK, which vaccine works?’ and then building the factory,’ he said.
Although that strategy will lead to five to six fruitless vaccine factories and billions of dollars lost, Gates thinks it’s worth it.
‘It’ll be a few billion dollars we’ll waste on manufacturing for the constructs that don’t get picked because something else is better,’ Gates said in the clip. ‘But a few billion in this, the situation we’re in, where there’s trillions of dollars … being lost economically, it is worth it.’
Moving quickly in this way – something the Gates Foundation can do with its financial resources and expertise in public health philanthropy – can ‘save months,’ Gates said, adding: ‘Because every month counts.’
Details on the funding are as of yet unclear. In a comment to Recode from Vox, Gates clarified, saying the foundation was ‘exploring’ this idea.
The Gates Foundation has already pledged $100 million toward fighting the coronavirus pandemic – including to a project researching drug treatments for COVID-19 in partnership with the Wellcome Trust and Mastercard, as well as toward an effort to send at-home coronavirus test kits to people in Washington state.
Bill Gates has been warning about the risk of a pandemic for years. In a 2015 TED talk, Gates urged the leaders of the world to prepare for a pandemic disease the same way they prepare for war – by running simulations to find cracks in the system.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Gates commented on that call to action: ‘As we’ve seen this year, we have a long way to go. But I still believe that if we make the right decisions now, informed by science, data and the experience of medical professionals, we can save lives and get the country back to work.’