- Bill Gates said in a recent keynote address that he’s confident the world will develop cancer therapies that can “control all infectious diseases.”
- Together with his wife Melinda, the couple has invested billions in companies over the last decade to develop such therapies.
Bill Gates is betting big that certain cancer therapies, if manufactured correctly, could help “control all infectious disease.”
“This would be a huge victory for humanity – and potentially a significant market for the life sciences,” Gates said, referring to the prospect of broadly effective immunotherapies.
Since stepping down from his post as Microsoft CEO in 2006, he and his wife Melinda have dedicated their lives to reducing poverty around the world. Infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis remain the top enemies.
The Gates Foundation has spent billions of dollars in grant money to this end, funding companies that research and manufacture disease therapies. In his recent keynote remarks, Gates mentioned a handful of deserving companies that could pave the way for controlling infectious disease.
One of the Gateses’ investments is the company Immunocore, which developed technology that stimulates patients’ immune system. The technology relies on the body’s own immune cells (known as T-cells), essentially reprogramming them, and using them to fight the cancer in a way that is personalised to the patient.
“Initially, Immunocore’s ‘T-cell receptor’ technology targeted cancers, but it could also be applied against infectious diseases,” Gates said.
The Gates Foundation has also taken an interest in gene therapies using a component of the human body known as messenger RNA, or mRNA. Modifying these molecules and injecting them back into the body can produce a stronger immune response. In his address, Gates pointed out that such vaccines would be cheaper, easier, and faster to make than traditional vaccines.
“This would be particularly helpful in containing epidemics, whether they occur through nature or are the result of an intentional biological attack,” Gates said.
The Gates Foundation has invested in the companies CureVac and Moderna to accelerate the pace of innovation in the vaccine space. (Both companies develope mRNA approaches to help the body use its own proteins to fight disease.) Doing so could also lead to an expedited vaccine approval process. Currently, it takes roughly 10 years to develop and approve a vaccine; Gates said a fast-moving airborne pathogen would require a period of just 90 days.
There are a host of risk factors aside from infectious disease that affect people in developing countries, such as malnutrition and poor sanitation, Gates conceded. But when it comes to doing the most good for the greatest number of people, his money is on finding the big fell swoops.
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