Sunday, November 26, 2006

Philanthropy for Life - Thanks, Bill

I have often been disappointed to see people with huge fortunes dedicate those fortunes to death. David Packard, cofounder of Hewlett-Packard, left about $9 billion at his death. He instructed his heirs to spend most of it to fight the world population "problem." There are various methods to reduce the world's population, but they generally cause deaths. They promote abortion. They promote euthenasia. Family planning is sometimes benign birth control, but generally includes abortion. But I am very pleased to see that that Bill Gates is using his even huger fortune to extend lives. He is underwriting vaccination for 3d world children, malaria cures, vitamin-enriched rice which prevents blindness due to malnutrition that is affecting large numbers of children per year and more. He is spreading his money wide and deep, enabling infrastructure and research that will allow benefits for decades ahead. The Seattle Times today describes this in the parochially titled "Seattle moves to forefront in global fight to save lives" After some gee whiz talk about how people who recently pilgrimaged to the UN in Geneva or New York now come to Seattle, they get to the substance:
... more than $1 billion to individual researchers and institutions based in Seattle. The total includes $30 million to launch a Department of Global Health at the UW. With Gates funding, Seattle scientists are helping lead development of vaccines for malaria, AIDS, pneumonia and a host of other afflictions that ravage Africa, Asia and Latin America. Seattle-based programs are delivering insecticide-treated bed nets and new-generation malaria drugs to people in Zambia; distributing vaccines to rural clinics in Mozambique; and directing street theater in India with a safe-sex theme.
OK, there are a few strange things in the mix, but few.
But when Bill Gates Sr. began to scout around on behalf of his son's newly formed foundation, some of the first people he connected with were Dr. Gordon Perkin, PATH's founder, and Dr. William Foege, a Vashon Island resident who led smallpox eradication in the 1970s. A colleague at the elder Gates' law firm served on the board of SBRI. Both Perkin and Foege helped open the Gateses' eyes to the millions of deaths in the developing world that could be prevented with vaccines and drugs widely available in richer nations.
University of Washington bioengineering professor Paul Yager got a $15.4 million Gates grant by forming a consortium to develop a lab-on-a-card system to quickly diagnose diseases such as dengue and typhoid fever. Micronics, a Redmond firm that specializes in designing such systems, is part of the group. The company will have the right to market the devices but agreed to make them available at low cost in the developing world, said CEO Karen Hedine. In a partnership that initially raised doubts, PATH funneled money to GlaxoSmithKline to develop and test a malaria vaccine, said Melinda Moree, director of the PATH project. .... The Children's Vaccine Program, Gates' first megaproject administered by PATH, has immunized millions of youngsters against infectious diseases. Early successes in the Malaria Vaccine Initiative, also administered by PATH, have changed the minds of skeptics who said such drugs might never be possible. Exciting results in SBRI's malaria research hint at the possibility of even more powerful approaches in the future.
Thanks, Bill. Keep it up. Additional material: How the money is being used - map Measuring how clean water improves health in Nepal

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