June 18, 2024


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust and Novo Nordisk Foundation joined forces on Monday to tackle some of the world’s most pressing health problems, an endeavor that pulls together three of philanthropy’s biggest players to tap developments in science and technology at a time when funding and attention for global health among governments is faltering.

Key Facts

The $300 million partnership will support scientific research and development to tackle global health problems, the group announced at the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Global Science Summit in Denmark.

Each of the three will contribute equally to the project — a commitment of $100 million each — a statement said, with funding initially set to last for three years.

The project will first fund research and solutions that address three major global health challenges, all of which disproportionately impact the world’s poorest people: the health impacts of climate change; infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance; and better understanding the interplay between nutrition, immunity, disease and development.

The group said that while innovation has accelerated with new technologies and scientific breakthroughs in recent years, as well as collective action helping to eliminate diseases and improve lives, progress is now at risk because “funding and attention for global health and development is faltering.”

“By pooling the vast experience and unique expertise of each organization… we can make advances that wouldn’t otherwise be possible,” said Novo Nordisk Foundation CEO Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, adding that he’s “particularly excited about the chance to break down barriers between often isolated areas of work.”

The funds will also directly support researchers and institutions in low- and middle-income settings, the statement said, including resources to boost access to existing tools and technologies, strengthen research and development capacities and “advance locally relevant research agendas.”

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Crucial Quote

“Solutions will start in science,” said Wellcome CEO John-Arne Røttingen. “In today’s complex world, health challenges increasingly overlap,” Røttingen said, meaning they require global collaboration to resolve. By partnering with Gates and Novo, “we can raise ambition, and combine resources and networks to find new ways to advance global health research—especially for those with greatest need,” he said.

What To Watch For

The trio hinted more partnerships could be on the horizon. In a statement, they said they will “explore opportunities” to further the partnership’s aims. This includes working with other charities, as well as partners in the public and private sectors. “Every sector has a critical role to play, and we hope this collaboration opens the door for other funders and partners to contribute to scaling up existing innovations and developing the tools of tomorrow,” said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman.

Key Background

The Wellcome Trust, Gates Foundation and Novo Nordisk Foundation are among the world’s largest charitable foundations and all are titans of medical funding and philanthropy. Their contributions and influence are so significant that they can rival that wielded by national governments and while much of their work is lauded, they have been accused of skewing and distorting global health priorities with what they choose to fund. Much of the Gates Foundation’s wealth comes from namesakes Bill and Melinda Gates, the former of whom cofounded tech giant Microsoft, as well as sizable donations from billionaire Warren Buffet. The fortunes of Novo and Wellcome, on the other hand, are rooted in the pharmaceutical sector. While Wellcome and the Gates Foundation are well known in public health and medical research circles around the world, until recently the Novo Nordisk Foundation has held a lower profile. The foundation is the controlling shareholder of the Danish drug giant of the same name, Novo Nordisk, and holds a significant portion of its shares. With the stellar success of GLP-1 diabetes and obesity drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, which Novo Nordisk produces and sells, the company — and the foundation’s assets — has soared in value.


Governments around the world have slashed their budgets in response to soaring inflation and various debt crises. These cuts, including in areas like foreign aid, medical research and health, have threatened to devastate efforts to tackle global health problems. The World Health Organization, for example, played a crucial role during the Covid-19 pandemic and other health emergencies but relies on external funding. This leaves it vulnerable to the whims of leaders who think on a more local stage, such as former President Donald Trump, who halted U.S. funding during the coronavirus pandemic. Bill Gates offers another example of collective will faltering in the face of a global problem. The billionaire recently warned polio eradication — something the Gates Foundation has pumped billions into — is not a guarantee, adding that there’s $1.2 billion in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s budget up to 2026.

Forbes Valuation

We estimate Bill Gates’ net worth at $128 billion, making him the ninth-richest person on the planet. His ex-wife Melinda French Gates—who co-chairs the foundation—is worth $11.1 billion.

Further Reading

ForbesOzempic Maker Novo Nordisk Beats Profit Forecasts Amid Weight Loss Drug FrenzyFtHow anti-obesity drugs built the world’s largest charitable foundationReuters‘Not right’ for us to be key global health funder -Gates CEO


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