I also expect we’ll see huge advances over the next five years in our ability to develop new vaccines—in large part due to the success of mRNA vaccines for COVID-19. I wrote about this at length in my Year in Review, but the short version is that mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine that delivers instructions to teach your body to fight off a pathogen. Although our foundation has been funding research into this new platform since 2014, no mRNA vaccine had been approved for use before last month. This pandemic has massively sped up the platform’s development process.
Our foundation funds small scale versions of this for diseases like polio and malaria. They’ve been effective at identifying outbreaks early. Just as I think we’ll see huge improvements in diagnostics and monoclonal antibodies, I predict that mRNA vaccines will become faster to develop, easier to scale, and more stable to store over the next five to ten years. That would be a huge breakthrough, both for future pandemics and for other global health challenges. mRNA vaccines are a promising platform for diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. The R&D progress made as a result of COVID-19 might one day give us the tools we need to finally end these deadly diseases.
OUR 2021 ANNUAL LETTER
The year global health went local
The world has an important opportunity to turn the hard-won lessons of this pandemic into a healthier, more equal future for all.
By Bill and Melinda Gates| January 27, 2021 29 minute read
Linked for educational purposes and social benefit, not for profit.
We all want to return to the way things were before COVID-19.
But there’s one area where I hope we never go back:
Our complacency about pandemics.
We can get ahead of infectious-disease outbreaks.
By the next pandemic,
I believe we can have what I call mega-testing diagnostic platforms.
They can be deployed quickly, cost very little,
and test 20% of the entire population every week.
We also want to get treatments out far faster next time.
One of the most promising is monoclonal antibodies.
These manufactured antibodies grab onto the virus and disable it,
just like your immune system
and can reduce death rates by as much as 80%.
I also think that we’ll develop new vaccines quickly,
in large part due to this new mRNA platform.
mRNA will become faster to develop,
easier to store, and lower cost.
That’s a huge breakthrough.
To stop future pandemics quickly,
we need to be able to spot disease outbreaks
as soon as they happen anywhere in the world.
And that requires a global alert system.
If there turns out to be some new infectious pathogen,
then we need a group of infectious-disease responders to spring into action.
Think of these as like pandemic firefighters.
They’re going to use their logistics,
use their ability to build up capacity quickly.
They’re going to go wherever that problem is.
Stopping the next pandemic will require a big investment.
But I think of this as the best insurance policy the world could buy.
You can read more about this in our annual letter.