23 December 2010

Gates Foundation Grants 5 Years Later

The New York Times featured an article a few days ago on the assessments made by the Gates Foundation after its ambitious start of giving out $450 million in 5 year grants. Now, five years later, it is time to see what has been learned.
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. 
In an interview, Mr. Gates sounded somewhat chastened, saying several times, “We were na├»ve when we began.”

As an example, he cited the pursuit of vaccines that do not need refrigeration. “Back then, I thought: ‘Wow — we’ll have a bunch of thermostable vaccines by 2010.’ But we’re not even close to that. I’d be surprised if we have even one by 2015.”

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.

Give the entire article a read as it gives some more specific examples of what was learned.  Sounds like Gates is willing to admit what has gone wrong and where they have improved. Think we can convince Bill to write a failure report? Could he host TEDxFail next year?