The 100th anniversary of the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed an estimated 50 million people is prompting public health authorities and the biomedical research community to seek new strategies to address global health threats. An immediate goal is to improve the effectiveness of seasonal flu vaccines, while advancing the development of a universal flu vaccine that can provide multi-year protection against multiple influenza strains.
In a major speech on April 27, 2018 in Boston, Bill Gates described how a lethal airborne flu virus could quickly spread around the world and kill 33 million people in six months. To avoid such a catastrophe, Gates announced the launch of a new “grand challenge” award by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with Google co-founder Larry Page and his wife, to provide $12 million in grants to researchers discovering “game-changing” approaches for testing and developing a universal flu vaccine.
He also cited the need for more effective antiviral therapies, rapid diagnostics, and advanced computer data systems to combat and prevent a pandemic.