BOSTON (CBS Local) – After a devastating flu season around the world, Bill Gates is joining the search for a universal vaccine for the potentially deadly virus.

The Details:

  • Bill Gates is offering $12 million in grants to help create a universal flu vaccine
  • Gates made the announcement on April 27 while warning about the risk of a global pandemic
  • The CDC says the 2017-18 flu season has killed 160 children, the most in the U.S. since 2013 
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In a conference at the Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center in Boston on April 27, Gates stressed the need for new treatments and a better global response to future pandemics. “Given the continual emergence of new pathogens, the increasing risk of a bio-terror attack, and how connected our world is through air travel, there is a significant probability of a large and lethal, modern-day pandemic occurring in our lifetimes,” Gates warned, via Quartz.

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The Microsoft founder and philanthropist announced that his foundation is creating a $12 million “Grand Challenge” to push for the development of a universal flu vaccine. “The goal is to encourage bold thinking by the world’s best scientists across disciplines, including those new to the field,” Gates told representatives from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The funds will reportedly be given out in the form of research grants ranging from $250,000 to $2 million. Projects that show promising results through data or animal trials can then apply for another $10 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “This is the early-stage money,” Gates told reporters for STAT. “This $12 million isn’t the end of the game.”

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The CDC reports that 160 children in the U.S. have died due to the flu since October of 2017; the highest number since the 2013 flu season. Healthcare facilities also reported the highest rate of hospitalizations due to flu-related symptoms since the CDC started keeping records in 2010.