Microsoft founder and Chairman Bill Gates on Wednesday made an appearance -- and a point -- during a talk at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference. Gates shocked the crowd by letting free a jar of mosquitoes.
"Malaria is spread by mosquitoes," Gates told his audience of tech superstars, Hollywood celebrities, and politicians. "I brought some. Here, I'll let them roam around. There is no reason only poor people should be infected."
After about a minute, Gates reassured his audience that the mosquitoes were free from malaria, eliciting a quip from TED curator Chris Anderson. The headlines for the videos featuring Gates' speech would read, Anderson joked, "Gates releases more bugs into the world."
Fighting Malaria One Net at a Time
Gates offered details on the progress being made to fight malaria in affluent countries and highlighted the need to invest more in fighting it in third-world nations. Specifically, he is pushing for distribution of insect netting and other techniques to protect people from infected mosquitoes.
"There is more money put into baldness drugs than into malaria," Gates said. "Now baldness is a terrible thing and rich men are afflicted. That is why that priority has been set."
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is financially supporting a vaccine that will start Phase 3 testing in the coming months. "I am an optimist; I think any tough problem can be solved," Gates said. "The market does not drive scientists, thinkers or governments to do the right things. Only by paying attention and making people care can we make as much progress as we need to."
Calling for Commitments
Beyond the TED conference, Gates has been active in his foundation. Late last month Gates called on world leaders, corporations, NGOs and individuals to maintain commitments to foreign assistance and investment despite difficult economic times.
Bill and Melinda Gates also announced a $34 million grant to the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases to help control and reduce the most prevalent neglected diseases that affect the world's poorest populations by 2020.
"Our work together to help the world's poor is more important in the face of this global financial crisis," Gates said at a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "If we lose sight of our long-term priority to expand opportunity for the world's poor and abandon our commitments and partnerships to reduce inequity, we run the risk of emerging from the current economic downturn in a world with even greater disparities in health and education and fewer opportunities for people to improve their lives."
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is working to end global suffering and death from tropical diseases by expanding access to low-cost, proven treatments. While most of these diseases have little name recognition in industrialized countries, together they cause severe disability in the world's poorest countries and result in billions of dollars of lost productivity. The grant announced Thursday aims to end the suffering of more than 1.4 billion people worldwide who live on less than $1.25 per day.