Billionaires spending millions to fight the novel coronavirus spending

Bill Gates Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates head up the Gates Foundation.

Billionaires are spending millions to fight the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 110,000 people and killed nearly 3,900 globally, including 22 reported deaths in the United States.

However the gifts, which total $129.65 million thus far according to Business Insider’s calculations, may not be doing much to help those already suffering from the growing global health crisis. Of the portion of the donations that are designated to help those on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, some are going to organizations designated by the Chinese government to handle the crisis, Fortune’s Eamon Barrett reported. However, medical workers throughout Wuhan are complaining on social media of not receiving any aid from these groups, according to Fortune.

The donations came amid a stock market correction that cost the world’s 500 wealthiest people more than $100 billion on February 28 alone. The turbulence has continued in the time since. The S&P 500 plummeted 7% immediately after trading began Monday, prompting the first market-wide trading halt since the financial crisis.

Keep reading to learn more about the coronavirus-related donations made by billionaires, in the order they were announced.

Credit: Business Insider

Highly active HIV antibody restricts development of viral resistance

A research team led by Univ.-Prof. Dr. Florian Klein of the Institute of Virology of the University Hospital Cologne and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) has identified a new highly active antibody targeting HIV.

They identified a new highly active antibody targeting HIV (left to right): Henning Grüll, Philipp Schommers and Florian Klein.
© Uniklinik Köln/Thies Schöning

Whereas the development of viral resistance limits the efficacy of previously described HIV antibodies, the newly identified antibody 1-18 can continuously suppress viral replication.

1-18 therefore has high potential for successful application in the prevention and treatment of HIV infection. An article describing antibody 1-18 has now been published in Cell.

Antiretroviral drugs are the gold standard for the treatment of HIV infection. They are highly effective in suppressing replication of the virus but require lifelong daily application and can be associated with side effects. Due to the high mutability of HIV and its capacity for rapid adaptation, combinations of antiretroviral agents are required to prevent the development of drug resistance and treatment failure.

Broadly neutralizing antibodies are a focus of ongoing research on novel options for the treatment and prevention of HIV infection. Their mode of action substantially differs from regular antiretroviral drugs, as antibodies target the virus through specific binding of HIV surface proteins.

Clinical trials have demonstrated the potential of broadly neutralizing antibodies by reducing the viral load in the blood of HIV-infected individuals. Similar to antiretroviral drugs, however, the effects of single antibodies were only temporary because of the development of viral resistance.

Scientists at the University Hospital Cologne have now identified a novel antibody called 1-18 that targets HIV. This antibody is highly potent and showed activity against 97% of the tested HIV variants. „1-18 is therefore among the best HIV neutralizing antibodies described to date“, says Dr. Philipp Schommers, resident physician at the Department I of Internal Medicine and one of the first authors of the article.

In collaboration with colleagues at the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, USA), the researchers identified the mode of action of antibody 1-18 in detail. 1-18 binds and inactivates a surface structure of HIV that is particularly relevant because it is essential for viral infection and replication.

The therapeutic efficacy of the newly identified antibody 1-18 was studied using a mouse model that allows recapitulation of HIV infection as it occurs in humans. In this model, other broadly neutralizing antibodies showed only short-term effects because of the rapid development of viral resistance. In contrast, treatment with the antibody 1-18 resulted in suppression of the viral load that was maintained for the duration of therapy. „These results indicate that development of viral resistance against the new antibody 1-18 is restricted when compared to other antibodies“, says Dr. Henning Grüll, resident physician at the Institute of Virology and also first author of the work.

Due to its high potency, the scientists consider 1-18 a promising candidate for HIV immunotherapy. “In addition, 1-18 has great potential for preventing HIV infection by passive immunization“, adds Prof. Dr. Florian Klein, lead and senior author of the study. Clinical trials are now planned to further investigate antibody 1-18.

US- Africa collaboration high on the agenda at Africa Oil Week

With the emergence of shale gas earlier this decade the United States shot to the top of the global oil and gas rankings. In 2018 it averaged 17.87 million b/d, which accounts for 18 per cent of the world’s production. This is up from the 15.6 million b/d in 2017.

Last December the US administration launched its Prosper Africa initiative with the vision to open markets for American businesses, grow Africa’s middle class, promote youth employment opportunities, improve the business climate, and enable the United States to compete with China and other nations who have business interests in Africa. 

The $50 million program will offer technical help to companies looking to enter or grow in Africa, which is urbanizing more rapidly than anywhere else on Earth. The region is projected to have 1.52 billion consumers by 2025 — nearly five times the size of the US population. 

A continued priority for the US Department of Energy is now looking towards Africa to develop opportunities in the exploration, production and monetization of LNG. In the words of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, “increased amounts of US LNG on the world market benefit the American economy, American workers, and consumers and help make the air cleaner around the globe.”

Under this new strategy the US government, including the Department of Energy, is looking to assist Africa advance economic prosperity and energy development across the continent without saddling them with unsustainable debt, or imperil their long-term economic development or their sovereignty.

When it comes to the oil and gas sector American corporations are already very active on the continent. Earlier this year Texas energy company Anadarko Petroleum gave the green light to start building a $20 billion gas liquefaction and export terminal in Mozambique — the biggest such project ever approved in Africa. 

To further this policy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, Steven Winberg, will join 25+ Pan-African ministers at the Africa Oil Week summit in Cape Town this November. He will use the event to share US energy policy points with the continent and outline a vision for deeper US commitment to Africa in the oil, gas and power sectors. This vision looks set to encompass increased two-way trade and investment between the US and Africa, with the US making potential capital available on joint-ventures and to part-finance LNG infrastructure for energy-lacking African countries.

“I am excited to represent the US at the upcoming Africa Oil Week Conference in Cape Town, South Africa,” Assistant Secretary Winberg said   “We want our friends and partners in Africa to thrive, prosper, and control their own destinies.  And we welcome the opportunity to share with them not only our abundant energy resources, but also the knowledge and technologies that can help them develop their own resources.”

Winberg with be delivering a keynote on Tuesday after at 1pm on the main stage explaining the US department of energy strategy for engagement in Africa. Prior to that he will be taking part in a high profile ‘Live CNBC Africa Broadcast: The Africa Oil Week Leaders Debate’.  Later on Tuesday afternoon he appears at 4.40pm in the South Africa Showcase discussing how the US is helping drive growth in South Africa’s unconventional sector. His final appearance comes on Thursday in the National Showcase Theatre where at 12 noon he talks about what the US is doing to strengthen bi-lateral trade and investment between the US and Africa, alongside Richard Nelson, Power Africa Deputy Coordinator. During his visit to Africa Oil Week, Winberg will be visiting the Fossil Energy Exhibit in the exhibit hall.

President Julius Maada Bio Launches the McGovern-Dole International School Feeding Programme in Kabala, Koinadugu

President Bio and First Lady Fatima Bio serving food to kids 

President Julius Maada Bio has launched phase four of the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program (IFEP) in Kabala, the district headquarter town of Koinadugu, some 190 miles north of Sierra Leone.

Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education, Lawyer Alpha Osman Timbo, who also doubled as the chairman of the event, told the gathering that access to free quality education was at the centre of President Bio’s administration. He added that it was, therefore, no doubt that they were launching the School Feeding Programme and its associated packages to tremendously add to the success of the Free Quality Education Initiative.

The minister thanked representatives of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the US-based international humanitarian organisation, and the United States of America for their continuous support to the government’s flagship programme.

Speaking on behalf of the people of Koinadugu and Falaba districts, Paramount Chief Member of Parliament, Honourable Alie Balasama Marah of Sengbe Chiefdom,thanked the government of Sierra Leone and its implementing partners for introducing the school feeding programme in the area. He added that the move was a testament to the fact that government had countenanced no bias to region or group when it pursued development across the country.

“This will go down in the history of this country, because contrary to every expectation the School Feeding Program has been launched in the northern part of the country where some people believe it is not the political stronghold of the ruling party. This is a laudable venture,” he confessed.

The country representative of CRS, Paul Emes, described the unveiling of the School Feeding Programme as momentous because the move showed how serious the President Bio administration was about building the human capacity of the country through a universal access to education.

“This day is momentous because it has ushered in an era of a new Sierra Leone where education will flourish. I am happy that the CRS is a part of this history-making trajectory,” Mr Emes assured the people of Koinadugu and Falaba districts.

The CRS chief also noted that with support from the US Department of Agriculture,they were willing to invest $ 25 million, over a period of four years, to the school feeding initiative. He promised that other facilities like capacity building of teachers, rehabilitation of primary schools, construction of water wells and boreholes would also be part of the package.

US Ambassador, Maria Brewer, stated that the launch was an important milestone in strengthening the long-standing relationship between the two countries, adding that the US Department of Agriculture’s food for education programme had helped support education, child development and food security in developing countries since 2003.

“This programme aims at reducing hunger and improving literacy and primary education,especially for girls,” she said.

She commended the Free Quality Education Program, particularly the allocation of 21 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product to achieving education for all Sierra Leoneans. She also commended CRS for their invaluable contribution to promoting education and noted that she looked forward to seeing the successful implementation of the programme.

President Julius Maada Bio thanked the government of the United States of America and CRS for joining him in ensuring that free and quality education reached every corner of the country. He added that he was happy to be in Koinadugu to fulfill his promise of providing free and quality education and to creating an enabling environment that would ensure the survival of the programme.

President Bio also noted that when he proclaimed to offer the free and quality education,he did not do it to gain political favour or to score political points. He said he did so because he knew that investing in the future of children was a right and an entitlement and not a privilege.

“This School Feeding Program will encourage parents to send their children to school and it will also increase attendance of school going pupils,” he said, and called on parents and local authorities to embrace the initiative because it would go a long way in encouraging children to see the need to be always present in school.