Interview: Gates Foundation CEO says China's efforts against coronavirus help save lives around the world

Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-27 16:20:00|Editor: xuxin
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NEW YORK, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- China's efforts to identify potential treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 have contributed to a global response to the virus in ways that could save lives around the world, said Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In a written interview with Xinhua on Wednesday, Suzman said that "we want to acknowledge that the people of China are bearing the brunt of this challenge, and we want to praise the many frontline responders who are doing heroic work to control the spread of COVID-19."

"Their efforts are not only helping China, they are helping the entire world," he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has recently written back to Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, after receiving a letter from the U.S. business leader on support for the fight against the novel coronavirus.

In his letter dated Feb. 20, the Chinese president wrote: "I deeply appreciate the act of generosity of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and your letter of solidarity to the Chinese people at such an important moment."

"President Xi's remarks resonate very well with us at the foundation," said Suzman. "We are grateful for President Xi's recognition of our foundation's work on COVID-19 response and deeply committed to continuing to support the global response efforts, with a focus on driving innovation and closer collaboration with our partners in China and beyond."

He said that at the global level, the foundation strongly supports the World Health Organization's efforts to help countries detect, isolate and treat people who may be infected with COVID-19.

"If cases can be effectively identified and isolated, there is a chance of interrupting virus transmission and preventing a global pandemic. Critical to the success of this effort will be the commitment of all nations to share data in a timely and transparent way," he said.

"We're grateful for the collaboration that Chinese health authorities have demonstrated and are eager to help facilitate deeper partnership," he said.

He said that previous experience has shown that coronavirus outbreaks are challenging and need better global cooperation.

"There is still more to do," he said, "and we hope that the COVID-19 outbreak will spur further action at the national, regional, and global levels to strengthen the world's emergency response capabilities."

Rapid communication as well as timely and transparent data-sharing are essential to improving preparedness and response, he said.

Everyone involved in the effort needs to work together to build better platforms for real-time sharing of epidemiological data, pathogen genetic sequencing data, and other information that can help researchers and national leaders make the right choices at the right time to accelerate the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics, he added.

"We believe that governments need to work together and invest in new platforms capable of producing new drugs and vaccines that can be developed, tested, and produced in billions of doses within days or weeks of an outbreak," he said.

Suzman said the good news is that exciting new technologies are helping scientists accelerate the development of viable vaccine candidates.

He said that what is needed are new production platforms that would enable governments to quickly produce the millions-to-billions of doses required once a safe and effective vaccine has been identified.

This is something that the Gates Foundation is committed to doing in collaboration with international organizations and Chinese partners in vaccine research and development, he added.

The foundation initially committed 5 million U.S. dollars to response efforts in China in late January. An additional funding of up to 100 million dollars will help catalyze a rapid and effective international response. He said the additional funding also includes direct grants to Chinese partners.

"It's incredibly important to the foundation's mission that we support international efforts to fight COVID-19 and help develop the tools and technologies," he said.