The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome, a global charitable foundation, have pledged $150 million each to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a partnership launched five years ago by the two charitable foundations, the governments of Norway and India, and the World Economic Forum.
The pledges come ahead of a global conference to support CEPI’s five-year plan to better prepare for, prevent, and equitably respond to future epidemics and pandemics.
“As the world responds to the challenge of a rapidly evolving virus, the need to deliver new, lifesaving tools has never been more urgent,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates, on Thursday.
“Our work over the past 20 years has taught us that early investment in research and development can save lives and prevent worst-case scenarios. Five years ago, following the Ebola and Zika epidemics, our foundation helped launch CEPI. Today we’re increasing our commitment and pledging an additional $150 million to help CEPI accelerate the development of safe and effective vaccines against emerging variants of the coronavirus and to prepare for, and possibly even prevent, the next pandemic,” Gates said in a statement.
The statement said that when the pandemic began, CEPI built one of the world’s largest and most diverse portfolios of Covid vaccine candidates—14 in all, six of which continue to receive funding and three have been granted emergency-use listing by the World Health Organization.
CEPI made early investments in the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Last month Novavax’s protein-based Covid-19 vaccine—funded largely by CEPI—received the WHO’s emergency-use listing. More than 1 billion doses of the vaccine are now available to Covax, the global initiative that aims to provide equitable access to coronavirus vaccines. CEPI also continues to work on next-generation Covid-19 vaccines, including “variant-proof” ones—shots that protect against all coronaviruses—potentially removing the threat of future coronavirus pandemics.
“Our new commitment of $150 million recognizes the enormous potential CEPI has to protect lives against emerging infectious diseases,” said Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, who urged world leaders to ensure that CEPI reaches its funding target. “It is in the world’s collective interest to avoid repeating mistakes and to help future generations prevent epidemics,” he said.
CEPI’s “replenishment conference” will be held on March 8 in London. The fundraising event will convene governments, philanthropists, and other donors to support CEPI’s five-year plan to tackle the risk of pandemics and epidemics, potentially preventing millions of deaths and trillions of dollars in economic damage.