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Sunday, 26 January, 2003, 16:48 GMT
Billionaire Gates backs philanthropy
Mr Gates joined a session at the World Economic Forum

Billionaires have a responsibility to harness their riches for good of society, Bill Gates, the world's richest person, has told world leaders.

Mr Gates, worth some $50bn, urged "everyone to be philanthropic".

"Every day we can do so," he said.

But he said wealth on his scale came with a demand to "make sure it goes back to global society in the most impactful way".
What a wonderful human being you are

US health secretary Tommy Thompson to Bill Gates

"There is a certain responsibility that accrued to me when I got to this unexpected position," Mr Gates, founder and chairman of software giant Microsoft, said.

The comments came as he revealed that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a $24bn charity founded two years ago, was targeting $200m at the "grand challenges" facing global health.

The announcement was made at the World Economic Forum's annual summit of political, business and social leaders in Davos, Switzerland, an event which this year has placed particular emphasis this year on executives' behaviour.

Research ideas

The initiative will see a 20-strong committee, led by Nobel prize winner Dr Harold Varmus, identify health problems which remain unsolved despite the medical advances, and accelerate research in promising areas.

Action targets could include finding ways to block the reappearance of latent tuberculosis, or to prevent mosquitos transmitting diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

Mr Gates cited the development of vaccines which could be stored at room temperature, allowing preventative treatment in areas without refrigerators.

"In some cases, different vaccines require different temperatures, so you have to have two refrigerators in a delivery area," he added.

The grand challenge programme, which follows the foundation's grant in November of $100m to fight HIV/Aids in India, was welcomed by US Health Secretary Tommy Thompson as "great for mankind".

"What a wonderful human being you are," Mr Thompson told Mr Gates. "I thank you for your generosity."

Mr Gates was in 2002 named the world's richest person by Forbes magazine for the fifth successive year, despite a $5.9bn decline in his personal fortune to $52.8bn.

He added that his Microsoft role remained his full-time job, and one he "was excited about".



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23 Jan 03 | Business
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