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Friday, 4 June, 1999, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Bill Gates' $5bn donation
Bill Gates delivering a talk
Bill Gates wants to help eradicate a different type of bug
Microsoft founder and the world's richest man, Bill Gates, has made what is believed to be the largest ever individual donation to charity.

Mr Gates and wife Melinda have given $5bn (3.2bn) to a foundation run by the software pioneer's father.

The William H Gates Foundation, which now has assets of $10bn, has as its goal the improving of people's lives by giving grants to tackle world health problems.

Recent chairtable donations
The couple, following in the philanthropic footsteps of earlier American industrial pioneers such as the Du Ponts and Carnegies, have been estimated to have a fortune of as high as $100bn.

They have also topped their own donation of $3.3bn last year split between the William H Gates foundation and the separate Gates Learning Foundation, which has assets of $.3bn.

The record donation was disclosed, as the foundation announced the award of a $50m grant to a Seattle-based team aiming to develop a new vaccine for malaria.

Other grants from the foundation recently have included $50m to Columbia University for a programme to reduce maternal mortality in developing countries.

Millions of victims

The couple have also given $25m to an international team aiming to develop an effective vaccine to prevent HIV infection.

Bill Gates senior, director of the William H Gates Foundation, said: "Bill and Melinda are enthusiastic about the opportunity to improve the lives of people throughout the world."

The mosquito spreads the parasite causing malaria
The malaria grant is being given to the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), a non-profit organisation under whose umbrella a group of international health experts has been assembled.

Its president Gordon Perkin said that a child is dying of malaria every 20 seconds.

"Malaria is exacting an enormous toll on the health and economic well being of hundreds of millions of families, most of who live in developing countries," he said.

"Although drugs that treat the illness have been around for some time, the malaria parasite continues to develop resistance to these drugs. The world badly needs a vaccine."

Trial resumed

Despite the ability of the malaria virus to outwit its victims' immune systems, scientists are hopeful of developing an effective vaccine, said Mr Perkin.

The World Health Organisation, World Bank and Unicef would all have to work together to help both the development and distribution of the vaccine, said the foundation.

Mr Gates senior said his son and daughter-in-law "hope coordinated efforts like these will achieve major gains in global health".

The donation comes as Mr Gates has come under fire at the Microsoft anti-trust trial, which resumed in Washington on Tuesday.

See also:

08 Feb 99 | Americas
Gates gives world's largest donation
13 Apr 99 | Your Money
Gates becomes first man to top $100bn
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