The Microsoft billionaire said he wants to expedite the process for developing a vaccine

By Benjamin VanHoose
April 06, 2020 12:42 PM
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Bill Gates and wife Melinda Gates are investing in the race for a cure to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

On Thursday, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder, 64, appeared during The Daily Show, discussing the pandemic with host Trevor Noah. During the conversation, Gates announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to help fund seven factories working on potential vaccines, even though they may not all pan out.

Gates explained that, though a “few billion” dollars could go to “waste” on the efforts that are deemed not viable, it’s key to work on safety and efficacy at the same time as manufacturing so as not to waste vital time. Since government protocol would elongate the process, Gates said his foundation can get the ball rolling on the prospects simultaneously.

“But a few billion in this situation we’re in where there’s trillions of dollars being lost economically, it is worth it,” he said. “… Every month counts.”

Last month, the foundation announced that it would contribute $125 million to finding potential COVID-19 treatments and to accelerate their developments, according to a press release.

On Sunday, Gates showed support for medical workers on the front lines on Instagram, writing, “Thank you to all of the health care workers who are making heroic efforts to test and treat patients across the United States and the world.”

Melinda Gates and Bill Gates in September
Christopher Farber/Gates Archive

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Gates currently ranks as the second-richest person in the world, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, worth an estimated $97 billion. Just ahead of the tech innovator is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose total net worth sits at $118 billion.

Last week, Bezos, 56, announced on Instagram that he is donating $100 million to Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization, in order to help families who rely on food banks and have been majorly impacted by the virus.

“Even in ordinary times, food insecurity in American households is an important problem, and unfortunately COVID-19 is amplifying that stress significantly,” he wrote on Instagram. “… Today, I want to support those on the front lines at our nation’s food banks and those who are relying on them for food.”

RELATED VIDEO: Bill & Melinda Gates Reveal That They Unwind From Saving the World by Watching This Is Us

In February 2018, Bill and Melinda Gates opened up to PEOPLE about their humanitarian efforts, explaining which causes are most important to them, as well as how they unwind in their moments of free time (they unwind by watching This Is Us and The Daily Show!). During the same interview, Bill warned that a potential pandemic worried him.

“We lead this organization together — the goals, the people we hire, the values we set — we enjoy doing that together,” said Melinda at the time. “Bill is the first person I want to talk to when I get back from being out in the field. We sharpen each other’s thinking.”

According to data compiled by The New York Times, there have been more than 1.2 million confirmed cases of the virus and 70,000 deaths worldwide, as of April 6.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.