UK and Bill Gates launch £1bn disease-eradication fund

23 Nov 15

UK chancellor George Osborne and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have set up a £1bn fund to tackle malaria and other infectious diseases.

The Ross Fund – named after Sir Ronald Ross, the British Nobel laureate who discovered that mosquitoes transmit the disease ‒ will see the UK and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation work in partnership to step up efforts in the fight against malaria.

While deaths due to malaria have already dropped by a third since 2010, 1 billion people are infected. The disease causes 500,000 child deaths every year and costs African economies alone around £8bn annually.

Osborne said that ending malaria and saving 11 million lives has been a personal commitment since 1997 and a key part of Britain’s commitment to overseas aid.

The announcement will see Britain play a larger role in fighting the disease and comes as part of a fundamental restructuring of the country’s aid budget which Osborne will set out in the his Spending Review later this week.

The Ross Fund will include a £300m package focused on malaria and other infectious diseases. This encompasses:  £90m for the eradication of malaria; £100m in support for research and development into products for infectious diseases; and £115 to develop new drugs, diagnostics and insecticides for malaria, TB and other infectious disease resistance.

The fund will also target diseases with epidemic potential, neglected tropical diseases and diseases with emerging resistance.

Bill Gates, who co-chairs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with his wife, said they are “proud” to be a partner in the effort. If malaria and other poverty-related infectious diseases are eradicated this would be one of “humanity’s greatest achievements”, he said.

The UK’s international development secretary Justine Greening added: “A healthy prosperous world is in Britain’s interest and the prevention of deadly diseases is a smart investment.”

While the world has made “great strides” in combating deadly diseases such as Ebola, work “does not stop here”, she added.

Meanwhile, a group of 20 experts from the Harvard Global Health Institute and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have agreed that responses to last year’s Ebola epidemic could have been much improved.

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