When it became fairly certain that the Ebola outbreak would evolve into an epidemic, governments, NGOs, individual donors, and pretty much the whole world opened their wallets to contribute to fighting the spread of the disease. For instance, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—one of the world’s top funders of global health concerns—made a $50 million commitment toward a variety of Ebola-related projects. Larry Page pledged $15 million, Zuckerberg put in for $25 million, and naturally, a few big pharma firms like Bayer jumped in with some pretty big gives.
But one of the biggest and most surprising players in the Ebola funding field was Paul Allen, who historically had not given on global health, but emerged as the single largest private donor on Ebola, committing at least $100 million to the cause.
It’s been nearly one year since Allen made that $100 commitment and Ebola is no longer considered an epidemic, but Paul Allen is continuing his efforts—with an eye to preventing future outbreaks.
The Ebola outbreak uncovered many weak links in the global health chain, including infrastructure challenges, serious issues with logistics, and a major lack of comprehensive data. Allen highlighted these problems at his Ebola Innovation Summit in April, issuing a global call to action to fill the gaps in order to better respond to the next global health crisis.
Last month, Allen backed this global call to action with the announcement of $11 million in new grants. Here’s the breakdown:
- The World Food Programme received an $830,000 grant toward improving interagency humanitarian supply chain logistics.
- The University of Minnesota’s Food Protection and Defense Institute got a $1 million grant for its work using “big data and predictive analytics” to identify developing outbreaks and improve health supply chain logistics.
- Baylor College of Medicine received $1.5 million to develop a rapidly deployable Ebola treatment center.
- Chembio received $2.1 million for point-of-care diagnostic technology that has the ability to detect multiple diseases at once.
- Becton, Dickinson and Company was awarded a $2.79 million grant to develop cost-effective, rapid diagnostic tests for Ebola.
- Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics received a $1.97 million grant for feasibility studies related to its new diagnostics testing and for technical biomedical research support.
- UNOCHA was awarded a $1.02 million grant in support of its work integrating data systems across West Africa.
When Paul Allen jumped into the global fight against Ebola, it was a bit surprising initially, but it didn’t come as a complete shock. Allen’s overall philanthropic focus has undergone some changes lately to include new issues. Plus, he reportedly began tracking the latest Ebola outbreak before many governments saw it as a serious threat. This tracking didn’t begin out of the blue; it was related to Paul Allen’s wildlife conservation work, which tracked the Ebola virus in wild apes.
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Paul Allen may be relatively new to the global health world, but he’s already established himself as a very important player in the field. Especially since there are currently a number of scourge diseases like measles, dengue, and cholera that are either already epidemic, or on the precipice of becoming so in certain regions of the world. So it’s not a matter of if the next global health crisis will occur, it’s a matter of when.