12/22/10

Gauging Impact of Gates Grants

Five years ago, Bill Gates made an extraordinary offer: he invited the world’s scientists to submit ideas for tackling the biggest problems in global health, including the lack of vaccines for AIDS and malaria, the fact that most vaccines must be kept refrigerated and be delivered by needles, the fact that many tropical crops like cassavas and bananas had little nutrition, and so on.

No idea was too radical, he said.

About 1,600 proposals came in, and the top 43 were so promising that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made $450 million in five-year grants — more than double what he originally planned to give.

Now the five years are up, and the foundation recently brought all the scientists to Seattle to assess the results and decide who will get further funding.

In an interview, Mr. Gates said, “We were na├»ve when we began.” He underestimated, he said, how long it takes to get a new product from the lab to clinical trials to low-cost manufacturing to acceptance in third-world countries.

Over all, he said: “On drawing attention to ways that lives might be saved through scientific advances, I’d give us an A. But I thought some would be saving lives by now, and it’ll be more like in 10 years from now.”

New York Times


12/16/10

Increased World Bank Pledge to Poor Nations

Officials meeting in Brussels this week agreed to contribute nearly $50 billion over the next three years to the World Bank fund dedicated to the globe's poorest countries.The 18 percent boost marked the arrival of some previous aid recipients as donors.

Britain, which topped the United States last year as the largest single donor, said it had promised $4.2 billion over the next three years. British officials said that represents a nearly 25 percent increase in local currency at a time when the government in London is pressing painful spending and benefits cuts on its citizens.

The fund, known as the International Development Association, supports health, education, food security and building programs through grants and long-term, interest-free loans to the world's 79 least-developed countries. The fund is replenished every three years at a donors conference. This year it marked a record for giving, with 51 countries agreeing to contribute.

The money, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said, will translate into an estimated 200 million child immunizations, better health and water for tens of millions of people, training for millions of teachers, and the construction of nearly 50,000 miles of roads and train tracks.

Washington Post