I attended Mr.Bill Gates’ talk– heard some very interesting ideas from Mr.Gates about opening wallets for research on the world’s pressing problems.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is practically “giving away” US $100,000 grants to researchers based on 2-page summaries of innovative ideas.

I didnt post the longer article/snaps in venturewoods- because I felt it may be too long OR too controversial– but it’s there at my blog http://delhivoice.blogspot.com.

Posted below is a extract on Mr.Gates’ views on funding medical research on problems affecting the lowest rung of society.
(as before, reproduction or publishing any of the text below without express written permission of the author is forbidden – nsnsns(at)gmail(dot)com).

Mr.Gates said while capitalism is the best system developed till now, the way capitalism works, miniscule amounts of money are spent solving problems for those at the bottom of the pyramid.

The amount of money spent annually researching polio and cures for polio till recently was about 10% of the money spent researching cures for baldness.

Until the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation chipped in, researchers could not typically expect rewards for their efforts. In US and even more outside the US, researchers just did not see rewards or money for solving the tough problems that affect the poorest, the most needy and the most deprived people in the world.

Many long, tough-to-understand descriptions are submitted and there’s a tiring and exhausting process for meager funds.

So, the last time they invited ideas to fund; they asked-for and got two-page descriptions. They got 4000 short descriptions from many researchers- and they got 60 people to evaluate the ideas- each evaluator got 150 ideas to evaluate and rate. And they told the judges the following:
(1) Each evaluator selects three ideas he liked best.
(2) Automatic US $100,000 funding to the idea each evaluator liked best- and the Gates’ Foundation would get back in a year to see how much progress was made.
(3) For the idea each evaluator liked second-best:
a. If the idea was from the US, then it would get $100,000 in funding if three evaluators liked it in their top three ideas.
b. If a idea was from outside USA then even one evaluator liking it as second best would get the idea $100,000 funding- because they want to get people all around the world working on ideas- they want researchers to be finding and developing solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, rather than worrying about funding.
c. For each idea selected as a third best idea by any researcher, more criteria will be applied- but whatever happens, Mr Gates felt that opening up the purse-strings would really get people digging into and researching ideas.

A 2-page synopsis by a lady in India, suggested a way of controlling AIDS by creating nano-particles which mimic the AIDS-causing HIV virus- and when the virus interacts with those, the virus to gets deactivated.

Mr.Gates added that since this was presented as a 2-page outline only, they don’t know if it’ll be useful or not.
But the evaluator liked the idea- so they gave the lady who proposed this idea $100,000 for her research- and they’ll get back to her in a year to see what progress she’s made- a year later.

Sounded like a interesting approach to to me; what say ?? do comment/write-in… also about the pitfalls/possible negatives of doing stuff like this…


Nalin Savara

Currently: CEO & Technical Director @ DarksunTech

Previously: (2001-2002): EscoSoft Tech
Headed Game Engine Technology Team at EscoSoft Interactive

Spoke at Wrox BangLinux 2001

Previously: (1999-2001): HSS aka FSS aka Aricent
Worked on RightServe - India's first targetted Banner Advertising Service- from prototype to product to product scale-up to turning the product into a service.

Worked on a interactive distance learning product based on DataConn's Meeting Server (DCMS) a Point-to-multi-point conferencing stack by DataConn UK- the same codebase on which Microsoft's NetMeeting product and Windows' underlying Point-to-Multi-point conferencing infrastructure is built on.