Chutzpah Science, by Elizabeth Corcoran

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bill Gates’ $28.8 billion foundation is more than double the size of the runner-up, the $11 billion Lilly Endowment, and the projects it has taken on are supersize. On the top of the agenda: battling the diseases that plague developing nations. The Gates Foundation has already pledged $1.5 billion to bring routine vaccines to the poorest children around the world. Now Gates wants to push scientists to create a more powerful arsenal.

To put together its list of 14 “challenges,” a panel of scientists sifted through recommendations from 1,000 researchers–from biochemists to mathematicians–around the world. Grant winners will have to invent technology on a deadline. Miss a milestone and the money stops. That hardheaded approach makes the applications more like business plans than traditional research programs, Klausner says.

Such research also represents a healthy half-step between pure academic research and for-profit development. “It’s good to try things that stretch the university a bit toward providing products in situations where the commercial world won’t,” says Nobel Laureate David Baltimore, who also serves as president of the California Institute of Technology and has won a $13.9 million Gates grant. The grantees pledge to make their technologies available at no or little charge to developing nations, though they retain marketing rights in developed markets.
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Source: Forbes