On Friday, philanthropist Bill Gates spoke at a meeting hosted by the Massachusetts Medical Society and the New England Journal of Medicine on epidemics and Gates announced the commitment of money for the development of a universal flu vaccine and offered a dire warning if pandemic preparedness is not taken more seriously.

Gates expressed his concern with the possibility of a global outbreak of disease, whether weaponized or organic developed. “There’s one area though where the world isn’t making much progress and that’s pandemic preparedness”, he said.

If you were to tell the world’s governments that weapons that could kill 33 million people in just a matter of months were under construction right now, there’d be a sense of urgency about preparing for the threat, Gates said.

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“In the case of biological threats, that sense of urgency is lacking,” he said. “The world needs to prepare for pandemics in the same serious way it prepares for war.”

In addition, Mr Gates announced the commitment of $12 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with the family of Google co-founder Larry Page, to develop a universal flu vaccine that could protect against most strains of influenza, with the hopes of avoiding a potential global and deadly epidemic.

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However, because of the time it takes to produce and deploy vaccines, he discussed the importance of other diagnostics and treatments necessary.

“So we need to invest in other approaches, like antiviral drugs and antibody therapies that can be stockpiled or rapidly manufactured to stop the spread of pandemic diseases or treat people who have been exposed,” he said.

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