Bill Gates repurposing units dedicated to fighting other diseases to battle Covid-19, sees hoped-for vaccine by Sep’20 unlikely

Bill Gates, Microsoft founder. (Photo courtesy: Time Magazine)

(, Apr27’20) – Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates is funding the production of the seven most promising ideas for a vaccine as he refocuses his philanthropic work on the deadly coronavirus, reported Bloomberg Apr 27. He most optimistically hopes to see scale-manufacturing within a year while being aware that the wait could be as long as two years. He has called it unlikely, however, that a vaccine will be ready this year, although at least one company looks to achieve just that.

Contrary to what an Oxford University research team and its Indian partner hope to achieve, Gates has said vaccine production will probably not start in Sep 2020.

Referring to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, Gates has said on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS Apr 26, “Dr Fauci and I have been fairly consistent to say 18 months to create expectations that are not too high.”

Earlier, in an interview with The Financial Times, Gates had said that his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with an endowment exceeding US$40 billion, will give “total attention” to Covid-19.

The foundation had contributed US$250 million to help counter the coronavirus so far, and was repurposing units dedicated to fighting other diseases to join in the battle against the pandemic, the report said.

Ten of about 100 vaccines under development “are very promising”, Gates had earlier said in a live chat Apr 22 on LinkedIn, including the Moderna-NIAID vaccine funded by an international consortium called Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, based in Oslo, Norway. One of these 10 vaccines, called Moderna-NIAID, went into its first phase of human trials on Mar 16, and others will start testing within the next month.

In India, half a dozen firms are developing vaccines against the virus that causes Covid-19. Among them is Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker by number of doses produced and sold globally. This company is collaborating with Codagenix, an American biotech company, to develop a “live attenuated” vaccine, among the more than 80 reportedly in development all over the world.

“We are planning a set of animal trials [on mice and primates] of this vaccine in April. By September, we should be able to begin human trials,” Apr 27 quoted Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of Serum Institute of India, as saying.

His firm is also partnering to mass produce a vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and backed by the UK government. Its clinical trial began on Apr 23 in Oxford. If all goes well, scientists hope to make at least a million doses by Sep 2020, the report said.

“It’s pretty clear the world is going to need hundreds of millions of doses, ideally by the end of this year, to end this pandemic, to lead us out of lockdown,” Prof Adrian Hill, who runs the Jenner Institute at Oxford, was quoted as saying.

Nevertheless, experts have warned that people should not be expecting a vaccine in the market any time soon.

The report cited David Nabarro, professor of global health at Imperial College, London, as saying humans will have to live with the threat of coronavirus “for the foreseeable future” because there’s no guarantee that a vaccine will be successfully developed.


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