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Gates Foundation joins coalition to fight epidemics

The coalition seeks to shorten preparation times to develop vaccines for global health emergencies.

By Ed Adamczyk
Gates Foundation joins coalition to fight epidemics
Bill Gates, shown here recieving the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 22, announced the involvement of his foundation in a $460 million initiative to prepare vaccines which could reduce the global impact of epidemics. The announcwement of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiative was made in Davos, Switzerland. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 19 (UPI) -- A $460 million partnership is ready to develop vaccines against infections, philanthropist Bill Gates said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiative was unveiled Wednesday at the global conference. Its initial investment comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the medical research charity Wellstone and the governments of Germany, India and Norway. Its goal is to develop vaccines that could be quickly deployed to overtake epidemics, such as the Zika and Ebola viruses, before they become international health emergencies.

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The plan is to create vaccines using genetic sequences of pathogens to identify antibodies against infections, using the "plug-and-play" model of computer interfaces, and is meant to be a means of preparation prior to outbreaks.

"The idea is to take a new way of building vaccines that could let us develop in less than a year a novel vaccine, called DNA/RNA vaccines. Right now it takes years to build a new vaccine. But the scientific idea of these new platforms could radically change that so that a lot of the steps are sitting there ready: the factory piece, understanding the regulatory piece. And you just have to plug in some information and do some quick safety profiles and then you can get into manufacturing quite rapidly," Gates told CBS News.

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In Davos, CEPI illustrated its plan by showing that over 2,000 lives could have been saved if introduction of a vaccine to fight Western Africa's Ebola outbreak during nine months in 2014 and 2015 took only six weeks to develop.

The $460 million investment is about half of the $1 billion CEPI seeks for its first year of operation. Fundraising is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

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