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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

2 hours ago - Health

Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note ±3.3% margin of error for the total sample size; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

About half of Americans are worried that trick-or-treating will spread coronavirus in their communities, according to this week's installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: This may seem like more evidence that the pandemic is curbing our nation's cherished pastimes. But a closer look reveals something more nuanced about Americans' increased acceptance for risk around activities in which they want to participate.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: The good and bad news about antibody therapies — Fauci: Hotspots have materialized across "the entire country."
  2. World: Belgium imposes lockdown, citing "health emergency" due to influx of cases.
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Education: Surge threatens to shut classrooms down again.
  5. Technology: The pandemic isn't slowing tech.
  6. Travel: CDC replaces COVID-19 cruise ban with less restrictive "conditional sailing order."
  7. Sports: High school football's pandemic struggles.
  8. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated 11 hours ago - Economy & Business

Dunkin' Brands agrees to $11B Inspire Brands sale

Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Dunkin' Brands, operator of both Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, agreed on Friday to be taken private for nearly $11.3 billion, including debt, by Inspire Brands, a restaurant platform sponsored by private equity firm Roark Capital.

Why it matters: Buying Dunkin’ will more than double Inspire’s footprint, making it one of the biggest restaurant deals in the past 10 years. This could ultimately set up an IPO for Inspire, which already owns Arby's, Jimmy John's and Buffalo Wild Wings.