Bill Gates Remarks
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
January 25, 2016
Thank you, Chancellor Osborne. It’s great to be in Liverpool and especially to be here at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), one of the leaders in global health R&D.
Improving the health of the world’s poorest people is our foundation’s top priority. It is the key to breaking the cycle of extreme poverty that persists in places like Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
The world has made great progress reducing child mortality and getting life-saving vaccines and drugs to people in the developing world.
But nearly 6 million children under the age of 5 still die every year – mostly in poor countries and mostly from preventable causes like malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, and birth complications.
One of the things we have to do to solve the problem of health inequity is develop new and better drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tools that address the unique health problems of developing countries.
UK leaders like Chancellor Osborne understand this because both of us have seen – first hand – the devastating consequences of diseases like malaria.
The UK government’s strong commitment to development aid – and in particular to prioritizing research of tropical infectious diseases with the Ross Fund – will save millions of lives in the developing world.
It’s also important here in the UK because – as the Ebola epidemic reminded us – the bacteria and viruses that trigger disease outbreaks don’t stop at national borders.
We work closely with the UK government on many global health efforts:
- Product Development Partnerships like the Medicines for Malaria Venture, which developed and has already distributed 300 million doses of a new malaria drug for children in 50 countries.
- The Global Fund – which is leading the worldwide campaign against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
- A public-private partnership with the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies to control or eliminate 10 neglected tropical diseases by the end of the decade.
- And a coordinated effort to address the growing global threat of antimicrobial resistance. (Fleming Fund).
In addition to the UK government, universities and research institutions like the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the Innovative Vector Control Consortium, Imperial College, Oxford University, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are among our most important partners in developing new products to tackle infectious diseases in places like Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
In fact, we invest more in global health R&D with British universities and research institutions than in any other country outside the U.S.
Even the Natural History Museum in London is in on the action, shining the light of science on how to deliver donated anti-parasitic drugs to communities that are so poor they don’t even have the health infrastructure to give them away for free.
Here in Liverpool, LSTM and IVCC are great examples of the scientific innovation coming out of the North of England. To name just a few:
- Janet Hemingway and LSTM’s Vector Biology team worked with health officials in India to put in place a new insecticide spraying program that will significantly reduce the incidence of visceral leishmaniasis, a major parasitic disease spread by sand flies. This work is vital to global elimination of the disease, which kills thousands of people a year.
- LSTM also developed a brilliant solution – using small, inexpensive rectangles of insecticide-treated fabric posted along waterways in Africa – to attract and kill the tsetse flies that infect people with sleeping sickness – a disease that can have serious neurological symptoms and is nearly always fatal if untreated.
At the IVCC, a team of researchers led by Nick Harmon are developing new insecticides to address the rapidly growing problem of resistance among malaria-carrying mosquitos to those now used in bed nets and indoor residual spraying.
If we don’t bring new insecticides to market soon, it will be a lot harder to control malaria millions of people’s lives will be at risk.
It’s not easy to develop new insecticides that are safe, effective, and unlikely to become obsolete.
IVCC researchers came up with the idea of combing through the chemical libraries that agro-chemical companies have over the years. With the help of these industry partners, IVCC searched through 4.5 million molecules over a 7-year period and discovered nine classes of new active ingredients that could form the basis of new insecticides.
Three of these insecticides are already in development, with the rest in reserve if needed. By creating a range of new insecticides, IVCC’s work dramatically reduces the risk that mosquitos will develop future resistance. This will have very real impact – saving millions of lives and laying the foundation for the eventual eradication of malaria forever.
I’m proud of our partnership with the UK government, awed by the amazing advances coming out of UK research institutions, and grateful for the generosity of the British people.
Your efforts have saved literally millions of lives and are helping create a more equitable and secure world for people everywhere.
And because of the great work of UK scientists and the commitment of political leaders like the Chancellor, I’m optimistic that in the next few decades we can wipe malaria from the face of the earth forever. It’s an ambitious goal, but an achievable one that would represent one of the greatest public health achievements in human history.