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Bill Gates will gamble billions to make a potential coronavirus vaccine

Bill Gates said The Gates Foundation is planning to spend billions of dollars investing in factories for seven potential coronavirus vaccines — knowing that billions may end up being wasted on treatments that don’t work.

The Microsoft co-founder and multibillionaire appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Thursday night to talk about how to best combat the deadly disease, officially known as COVID-19.

Gates acknowledged that “at most” two of the seven potential vaccines would be chosen for mass production.

“We’re going to fund factories for all seven just so we don’t waste time in serially saying, ‘OK, which vaccine works?’ and then building the factory,” Gates said.

“We can save months, and every month counts.” @BillGates and Trevor discuss combating coronavirus tonight at 11/10c

— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) April 3, 2020

“Our foundation, we can get that bootstrapped and get it going, and save months because every month counts,” Gates added.

In early February before the disease was officially declared a pandemic, Gates and his wife Melinda donated $100 million to fund first responders working to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Gates told Noah that his foundation is able to move a lot quicker than public health organizations, which may be bogged down by bureaucratic measures and red tape, to start looking for solutions to the current crisis faster.

Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates
Jack Taylor / Getty Images

“Because our foundation has such deep expertise in infectious diseases, we’ve thought about the epidemic, we did fund some things to be more prepared like a vaccine effort, our early money can accelerate things,” Gates said.

He said it makes sense to waste billions of dollars building factories that ultimately prove useless to enable manufacturing of a potential vaccine because “trillions of dollars … being lost economically.”

“It is worth it,” Gates said.

Despite the foundation’s plan to spend billions on manufacturing, a vaccine may still be 18 months away, Gates said.

Gates has warned of the dangers of a pandemic for years. As the coronavirus outbreak spread through Microsoft’s home state of Washington, Gates teamed up with Amazon, another Seattle-based tech giant, to provide at-home test kits to residents in the area.

Gates has publicly called on elected officials to expand testing and issue shutdown orders across the country.

On Tuesday, Gates penned an op-ed in the Washington Post urging government leaders to make up for “lost time” and mandate broader shelter-in-place orders across the board to slow the spread of COVID-19.

For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.

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Meira Gebel
Meira Gebel is a freelance reporter based in Portland. She writes about tech, social media, and internet culture for Digital…
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