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Bill Gates is spending billions to produce 7 potential coronavirus vaccines

07:57 | 05/04/2020

The Microsoft billionaire is plugging money into building factories for seven promising coronavirus vaccine candidates, even though the philanthropic foundation would end up picking only one or two of the seven, meaning billions of dollars spent would be abandoned.

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bill gates is spending billions to produce 7 potential coronavirus vaccines

Bill Gates is plugging money into building factories for seven promising coronavirus vaccine candidates (Photo: Getty Images)

On Thursday's episode of "The Daily Show, the Microsoft billionaire told the host Trevor Noah that his philanthropic organization, the Gates Foundation, could mobilize faster than governments to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

"Because our foundation has such deep expertise in infectious diseases, we've thought about the epidemic, we did fund some things to be more prepared, like a vaccine effort," Gates said. "Our early money can accelerate things."

Gates said he was picking the top seven vaccine candidates and building 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.

Gates said that simultaneously testing and building manufacturing capacity is essential to the quick development of a vaccine, which Gates thinks could take about 18 months.

In a Washington Post op-ed article published earlier this week, Gates said some of the top candidates required unique equipment.

"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."

The Gates Foundation "can get that bootstrapped and get it going and save months, because every month counts," he added.

Earlier in the pandemic, both Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, donated $100 million to fight COVID-19 through their eponymous foundation, which works on fighting infectious diseases around the globe.

“It seems, though, that money isn’t able to fix this problem," Noah said. "It seems like governments around the world are trying everything they can, but it doesn’t seem like it can be fixed. What are you hoping to achieve in this moment in time?”

“Governments will eventually come up with lots of money for these things, but they don’t know where to direct it, they can’t move as quickly," Bill Gates replied.

He said that the biggest issue right now is the American health care system’s access to testing in order to pinpoint who has the disease and who does not. He added, however, that the money he has pledged can “help accelerate things” right now.

“We did fund some things to be more prepared, like a vaccine effort,” Bill Gates said.

"So, for example, there’s — of all the vaccine constructs, the seven most promising of those — even though we’ll end up picking at most two of them — we’re gonna fund factories for all seven," he said.

“To get to the best case, that people like myself and Dr. [Anthony] Fauci are saying is about 18 months, we need to do safety and efficacy and build manufacturing. … And so we’ll abandon — you know, it will be a few billion dollars we’ll waste on manufacturing for the constructs that don’t get picked because something else is better,” Gates continued.

Medical professionals at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine announced Thursday that they have produced a coronavirus vaccine that has undergone peer review and is showing promise in mice.

The vaccine is just the fourth potentially viable candidate known to be produced, though major companies such as Johnson & Johnson have claimed promising candidates.

The coronavirus has infected over 1 million people globally, and the number of confirmed cases in the United States has reached over 245,000, claiming at least 6,000 lives.

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BI/ Hill