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Gates speaks at a 2015 dinner. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Bill Gates today announced a $12 million "Grand Challenge" to boost the development of a universal flu vaccine, as part of efforts to create a global pandemic response system.

Why it matters: Gates says world leaders need to prepare for the next global pandemic — whether it originates from a bioterrorist attack, new flu viral outbreak or other pathogen — which could have the potential to kill nearly 33 million people in six months, Gates says.

“We can’t predict when. But given the continual emergence of new pathogens, the increasing risk of a bioterror attack, and how connected our world is through air travel, there is a significant probability of a large and lethal, modern-day pandemic occurring in our lifetimes.”
— Bill Gates giving the New England Journal of Medicine Shattuck Lecture in Boston

The seed money: The Grand Challenge is starting with $12 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Google co-founder Larry Page and his wife, Lucy. As Gates told STAT, the money is just the start of what will be needed. Normal vaccines cost roughly $1 billion to develop, test and manufacture, but one as complex as a universal vaccine will likely cost more, STAT writes.

Universal flu vaccine: Gates says a universal flu vaccine is needed to prevent another outbreak like the Flu of 1918, which killed 50 million people worldwide.

Other methods to prepare: The next pandemic may not necessarily be from a new flu virus strain, he says, and other methods to respond may be needed. So researchers are experimenting in other areas, he says, such as other antivirals, monoclonal antibody therapies, RNA and gene delivery systems, rapid diagnoses using CRISP-R, and the power of computing and big data analysis.

U.S. role: Gates called upon the U.S. to play a leadership role in creating a pandemic response system. "The world needs to prepare for pandemics, the way it prepares for war," Gates adds.

Go deeper

Diamonds see demand spike and prices follow

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Diamond prices are up because demand is growing — despite the country's recent emergence from various forms of lockdown.

Why it matters: Diamonds were a big pandemic-era winner, when U.S. spending flowed out of service, travel and experiences into goods and high-end products.

Blockbuster Supreme Court day

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Supreme Court will give conservatives a lot of what they want — but not quite everything.

Driving the news: It voted 9-0 to carve out religious objections to same-sex marriage, saying foster-care agencies have a First Amendment right to turn away same-sex couples. But it also voted 7-2 to preserve the Affordable Care Act, saying Republican attorneys general did not have the legal standing to bring their lawsuit.

Biden signs bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

President Biden and Vice President Harris with members of Congress after the signing in the White House on June 17. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

"Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments," President Biden said before signing legislation Thursday that establishes Juneteenth as a federal holiday, just two days before the occasion.

Why it matters: The holiday, which will be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day, is now the 11th annual federal holiday and the first one established since the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.