Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

Networking For A Better Future - News and perspectives you may not find in the media

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February 13, 2004

Gates obsessed - battling virus plague

According to a recent story in BBC News, a foundation set up by Bill Gates - founder and chairman of Microsoft Corporation - is giving $ 83 million for fighting tuberculosis. The money will not be going towards providing clean water or decent living conditions for the people most affected. It will be invested in pharmaceutical research to find - you guessed it - a virus antidote.

Perhaps the fact that Gates' flagship product, the Windows operating system, is continually attacked by virusses, has had a certain influence on what Bill is now trying to do in the health arena. A fatally flawed model - the Windows Giant's software monopoly - is requiring continuous anti-viral intervention. Here we have a phenomenon of virusses exploiting loopholes and backdoors in a monster program, and we see a desperate and apparently futile fight against the spread of such viral agents.

In health care, the situation is not much different. We have a monopolistic medical system which sees illness as caused by "germs", bacteria and virusses, and which has staked its reputation on finding vaccines to protect against the spread of those nasty bugs. Of course we can hardly blame Gates for doing what he has been doing all his life - fixing things to keep the viruses at bay.

It would be nice to see some lateral thinking, such as "let's see what is wrong with our economic system that it keeps so many millions in a state of poverty, exposed to illness". People are better off in the developed countries not because we have more vaccines but because we have better hygiene and can eat well enough to keep us strong. Our exploitation of developing countries keeps their populations from achieving the same health standards we enjoy.

But then, like the software monopoly, the medical monopoly is lucrative and Bill does have a nose for "good business". His shares in some of the pharmaceutical companies are in danger of losing value. No wonder his foundation's millions go for promoting pharmaceutical research for bigger and better vaccines. Got to beat those pesky virusses!

Bill Gates' millions to battle TB

By Jonathan Amos
BBC News Online science staff, in Seattle
(original article found here)

A foundation set up by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is giving away $83m help fight tuberculosis.

The disease, which is said by the World Health Organization to kill nearly 2m people each year, is developing forms that are now resistant to antibiotics.

The money will go to the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation to fund current clinical trials and research new ideas.

"It's unacceptable that TB continues to kill someone every 15 seconds," Richard Klausner of the Gates Foundation said.

He announced the grant on the first day of the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting here in Washington State.

Dr Marcos Espinal, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, which is hosted by the WHO, welcomed Thursday's announcement.

"It is very significant. It is a great contribution by the Gates Foundation," he said. "There is a great need for new tools and this is certainly something which will produce major benefits."

The money should more than double the amount spent annually on TB vaccine research worldwide, said Dr Klausner, who is the executive director of the global health program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as it is more properly known.

Bad practice

"We are in the midst of a new TB epidemic. The world desperately needs an effect vaccine to prevent TB, particularly in adolescents and adults.

"Through accelerated research and development, a new vaccine could permanently change the trajectory of the epidemic and save millions of lives every year," he added.

Two billion people - one out of every three people on Earth - are infected with the TB pathogen, a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Once in decline, the disease is now experiencing a resurgence, fuelled by the HIV/Aids epidemic. It is now the leading killer of people infected with the virus, and has also become the single biggest killer in developing nations of women aged between 15 and 44.

Another aspect in the resurgence of TB is the development of drug-resistant strains of the bacterium which now affect up to 50m people.

These strains are believed to have evolved as a result of bad medical practice, such as the over-prescribing of antibiotics, or through patients not taking the drugs long enough to get rid of the disease. This has allowed tougher bacteria to emerge.

A vaccine already exists - it is actually a family of vaccines called BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guerin) - but something more effective is needed in those countries where BCG is widely administered but the disease is still rampant.

Dual approach

The Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation is a non-profit organisation dedicated to developing new vaccine candidates. The money will be used to push new research through clinical trials and to improve some of the basic scientific tools used in laboratory studies.

The grant will also help develop new vaccine production and distribution networks.

Dr Jerald Sadoff is the president and chief executive officer of the Aeras.

He said: "We are hoping over the next two to three years to push the leading candidate vaccines into a position where they can be tested for efficacy so that we can get licensure and delivery of vaccines in the next seven to 10 years."

The two leading candidates are now in phase 1 clinical trials. The first is known as rBCG30 and is an enhanced version of the BCG vaccine that has been genetically engineered to stimulate a stronger immune response.

The second, a "fusion protein", is a combination of two proteins from the TB pathogen that are primary targets of the immune system. The aim is to use both together, to first prime the immune system and then boost it.

"This prime-boost approach has shown remarkable protection, especially in primates, which has never been seen before," said Dr Sadoff.

See also:

Bill Gates : the Philanthropist ?
A few days ago I stumbled upon a Digg news on Bill Gates : Bill gives big. It was about Bill Gates (again) donating serious amount of money.

Philanthropy Gates Style investigative report published in the LA Times at the beginning of 2007 found that the Gates Foundation "reaps vast financial gains every year from investments that contravene its good works" [3]. These investments go to companies responsible for causing the problems the Foundation tries to solve. The Gates Foundation also profited hugely from its holdings in the top 100 polluters in the United States as rated by the University of Massachusetts and the top 50 polluters in Canada, as rated by the trade publication Corporate Knights. Its investments in these companies total about $3.3 billion.


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Friday February 13 2004
updated on Saturday August 4 2007

URL of this article:


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Readers' Comments

Josef -
I love your blog, but I must take issue with a couple of points here. I'm not sure that our immune systems are better here in the developped world. Look at the rates of asthma, allergies, etc. A recent article in the Economist linked early use of antibiotics to a weakened immune system. Our diet is based on a few moncultures (corn, potatoes, beef) with little variety and many obvious flaws (too much sugar, fat, protein, toxins, additives).

My daugther grew up in Africa and was largely healthy there and continues in good health here. I believe that her immune system is strong because
a) she had early exposure to many bugs), and b) she ate a wide variety of tubers and greens there and probably had pretty good nutrition.

The media only thinks of Africa in terms of disaster. And yes there are horrible things wrong there. But when it comes to the immune system, I'm not sure we're much better. We can learn.

And throwing gazillions at treating the symptoms may not be the best use of money.

Posted by: Bob W on February 17, 2004 04:39 PM


... love your site as well.

Great public interest health articles. Will put a link somewhere, in addition to the one on your comment here.

You are right, I should not have used the word "immunity". It wasn't exactly what I wanted to express. Well, sometimes we do get a bit sloppy.

The problem with diseases in Africa is clearly very much related to poor living conditions and especially sanitation, and our advantage is that we have those taken care of. So we have a better starting point. Health standards is the word. We got them, they don't. The point is that the remedy of course is not vaccines and medical drugs, but clean water, adequate food and better sanitary conditions.

Thanks for raising that point.

Posted by: Josef on February 17, 2004 08:09 PM


Here a comment (e-mail) from Chris Gupta

"The following provides an inescapable conclusion that the decline of disease is due to improved living conditions and not the delusion of advancements in medicine rubbish - as the medical Mafia propaganda would have us believe!

Cleaner water. Advanced sewage systems. Nutrition. Fresher food. A decrease in poverty. Germs may be everywhere, but when you are healthy, you don't contract the diseases as easily."

Chris Gupta

Posted by: Josef on February 19, 2004 12:29 PM


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The Individual Is Supreme And Finds Its Way Through Intuition


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