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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


to identify, support, and shape scientific research that can have the most impact and to accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries into solutions that improve people's health and save lives.

The Challenge

Research and innovation are essential for improving people’s health and saving lives. Vaccines prevent devastating infections and illnesses, drugs help manage and treat disease, and diagnostic tools, medical devices, and other health-related interventions enable providers to anticipate, prevent, diagnose, and manage illness and thereby improve people’s overall health. Increasingly, these tools are yielding significant benefits for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations.

But too many health conditions in the developing world still lack effective, appropriate, and affordable solutions. And too little funding is directed toward problems that disproportionately affect the world’s poor. According to some estimates, only 10 percent of all medical research is devoted to conditions that account for 90 percent of the global disease burden. Moreover, due to limited support for research that addresses some of the most neglected diseases and populations, the world’s best scientists are not sufficiently engaged.

We urgently need to develop and implement new strategies to achieve the eradication of polio. We need new vaccines for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis (TB). Treatments for diseases such as TB and malaria are becoming less effective due to drug resistance. Many diagnostic tools are either inadequate or not available in poor communities. Better contraceptives are needed to address the demand for family planning options, as are new, more holistic approaches to ensuring healthy birth, growth, and development.

The Opportunity

While discovery research can increase the likelihood of dramatic progress in tackling persistent global health and development problems, we must ensure that it is focused for maximum impact. We must foster bold innovation and identify and pursue potentially transformative ideas, despite a high risk of failure.

Dramatic progress in global health and development can be made if research institutions, governments, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and private industry join together to generate new discoveries and new technologies that could greatly improve outcomes for families and children.

To reveal new ways to solve key health problems, we must work together to fill gaps in knowledge about the causes of those problems. From the start of projects, we must consider the path through development and delivery of a solution, anticipating how to test a tool or technology, how to introduce it, and who will use and pay for it. And we must promote cross-discipline collaboration and coordination among researchers and funders to help ensure that solutions are developed that will be sustainable and will have impact at the greatest possible scale.

Our Strategy

Working closely with other global programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Discovery & Translational Sciences program aims to create and improve preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions for infectious diseases as well as other conditions that affect mothers, infants, and children. We do this by identifying and filling gaps in scientific knowledge, creating or implementing new technology platforms that can accelerate research in support of our goals, and investing in potentially transformative ideas.

All of our investments advance the goal of creating solutions that can be deployed, accepted, and sustained in the developing world. To speed the translation of scientific discovery into implementable solutions, we seek better ways to evaluate and refine potential interventions—such as vaccine candidates—before they enter costly and time-consuming late-stage clinical trials.

We seek ideas and solutions from creative minds across the globe and from diverse fields, and we invest in discovery research through a variety of mechanisms, including our Grand Challenges grant programs. Together with our Grand Challenges partners, including government agencies and other donor institutions, we work to define areas of urgent need, foster collaboration among researchers, and build a global network of research initiatives and funders.

Areas of Focus

Our efforts fall into four main areas: vaccine discovery, drug discovery, maternal and child health, and control of disease-transmitting mosquitoes.