In a recent interview with Technology Review, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates explains his vaccine development strategy, noting he has enough money to make a market where none exists naturally.
"Like malaria: rich people don't need a malaria vaccine," says Gates. "They are rarely in malarial areas, and when they are, they can take prophylactic drugs and not worry about it. And yet for the people who live there, over a million a year, mostly kids in Africa, die. When we did our first $50 million grant for malaria, about a decade ago, we more than doubled the amount of money going into malaria research at the time. It's a horrific disease, but there's not a market reward for coming up with a malaria vaccine.
"Yes, you can create a market where there's no natural market. The biggest project, the one that's furthest along, is where GlaxoSmithKline is doing a vaccine called R2SS, which is now in phase 3 [trials]. It's not a perfect vaccine. It reduces mortality a bit more than 50 percent. And then we're funding a lot of other things that aren't as far along that--either by themselves or in combination--would get us a perfect vaccine. There are some very novel ideas in the early stages.
"But to go back to your question, the reason we're involved is because there's not a market. And so our investment is mind-blowing compared to anything else. And you do have that in diseases of the poor world."
- here's the Q&A from Technology Review