Billionaire Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder, has announced $2 million in grants for efforts to fight the Zika virus.
The bulk of the funds, $1.5 million, will go to mosquito control efforts in countries where the virus is actively spreading. The other $500,000 will go to Chembio Diagnostic Systems to accelerate the development of a rapid diagnostic test for Zika.
Like his friend Bill Gates, Allen has become an influential philanthropist in the world of medicine and science. He has founded a brain institute that has mapped both the mouse and human brains and a cell biology institute to understand the basic building blocks of our bodies. Allen, who is owner of the Seattle Seahawks football team, has also taken a special interest in traumatic brain injury and is funding a research effort to better understand its long-term effects.
During the height of the Ebola crisis, when many world governments were slow to react, Allen led a campaign to try to raise philanthropic funds to fill the gap and donated $100 million of his own money to the effort. Global health officials have credited those funds with helping get needed supplies and support on the ground quickly in West Africa.
Officials from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and Vulcan Inc., the company that oversees both Allen's business and charitable projects, said the Zika funds will focus on health, sanitation, hygiene promotion and preparedness for up to 1.2 million people in Brazil and other countries. In announcing the grants, they drew parallels with the Ebola crisis.
"The slow global response to that outbreak may have contributed to the deaths of thousands of people. Now, another disease is challenging governments and the global health community," the foundation and Vulcan said in a statement. "While the Zika virus may not have the deadly consequences of Ebola, the lessons learned from that outbreak can be applied to prevent this one from becoming the next pandemic."
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