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Home » Gates unveils fresh $30m fund to scale AI-driven health solutions in Nigeria, others

Gates unveils fresh $30m fund to scale AI-driven health solutions in Nigeria, others

Bill Gates has unveiled another US$30 million investment to support a new artificial intelligence (AI) platform, providing African scientists and innovators with the technical and operational support required to turn promising ideas into scalable health and development solutions.

The co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation made the announcement on Tuesday at the ongoing 2023 Grand Challenges Annual Meeting in Senegal.

The AI funding follows an earlier unveiling of a $40 million investment targeted at advancing access to mRNA research and vaccine manufacturing technology that will support low- and middle-income countries’ (LMICs) capacity to develop high-quality, lifesaving vaccines at scale.

Gates said the support is a step towards ensuring the benefits of AI are relevant, affordable, and accessible to everyone, particularly those in LMICs.

In his address to over 1,400 scientists, policymakers, and donors attending the annual meeting, he called for governments across the world to spend at least $3 billion more yearly on global health and development in order to close the critical gaps in funding for neglected diseases.

Data shows that while overall health R&D funding is increasing, only about 2 percent is directed toward diseases that affect the world’s poorest people.

In 2020, the annual funding gap for product development targeting poverty-related and neglected diseases was estimated at $2.6 billion.

“New health technologies have the potential to save millions of lives, but R&D funding is going in the wrong direction,” said Gates.

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“Donors need to step up their commitments to ensure health innovations reach those who need them more quickly, so more lives can be saved.”

The foundation will continue to work closely with technical partners and governments to further advance the platform and identify opportunities to jointly advance the use of AI for health and development.

Moussa Balde, Senegal’s minister for higher education, research and innovation, speaking on the relevance of such interventions said global investments in a pipeline of innovative solutions helped reduce childhood deaths of under-five by half , over the past two decades.

“But lifesaving innovations still take too long to reach those who need them and are not always designed with equity from the start. Grand Challenges Senegal continues to invest in the country’s brightest scientists and innovators, and we are pleased to be part of this global network of Grand Challenges partners investing in locally-led solutions to ensure innovations, including in health, education, and agriculture, benefit everyone equally.”

Launched in 2003, Grand Challenges, the foundation’s flagship innovation program, focuses attention and funding on pressing global health and development problems that affect the world’s poorest people, using open calls for proposals to crowd source potential solutions.

Read also: Gates gives $40m to expand mRNA vaccine access in Nigeria, others — Reuters

Grand Challenges is supported by the governments of India, Brazil, the United States, and Canada, as well as a growing number of countries in Africa, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, and South Africa.

Since 2003, partners have invested $1.6 billion to support more than 3,800 projects in 118 countries, from new strategies to improve gut health in moms and children to reinventing the toilet for improved sanitation to reimagining drug discovery research for malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases.

“What started as a single program funded by the Gates Foundation and its partners has grown into a family of initiatives and partnerships across national borders to save and improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people,” Kedest Tesfagiorgis, deputy director, Global partnerships and Grand Challenges at the Foundation.

“Our community of brilliant innovators is proof that a great idea can come from anywhere and be supported by the funders, policymakers, and advocates needed to move ideas into the laboratory and, ultimately, to the people who can most benefit from them.”

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