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Bill Gates wants to prepare us for the future of bioterrorism

Along with climate change and the ongoing pandemic, the multi-billionaire and brain behind Microsoft has coined bioterrorism as the next impending threat to humanity.

The idea that somewhere in the world, somebody is in a laboratory plotting to release a deadly virus out into the global population sounds a lot like the storyline of an upcoming thriller film starring Liam Neeson.

Maybe so, but Bill Gates has said that this could be a very real possibility. And if you’ve been paying attention to the Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist in the last few years, you’ll already know he has a knack for predicting this sort of thing.

In November of 2019 – just a month before the Coronavirus began its world tour – Gates featured in an episode of Vox’s Explained on Netflix, discussing the imminence of an epidemic, as well as the need to increase funding into vaccine research.

It wasn’t the first time he’d spoken on the nature of deadly viruses and the threat they pose to humans. Six years ago, he presented a Ted Talk on the necessity of preparing healthcare systems and advancing vaccine capabilities for when an outbreak inevitably emerges.

Now I’m not calling him a psychic, but when Bill Gates says the world needs to anticipate acts of bioterrorism, perhaps governments and other major organisations should listen up.

What does he know that we don’t?

Well, a lot, obviously. Bill Gates runs his own charity which funds vaccine development and virus surveillance, aimed at quickly spotting and eradicating outbreaks around the world.

At a recent meeting with the chair of the UK’s Health Select Committee, Jeremy Hunt, he warned that future terrorists or ‘garbage scientists’ (to use Nuffield Health’s terminology) could begin using deadly viruses like smallpox as a bioweapon.

More ominously, he stressed that advances in biology have made it extremely easy to engineer fast-moving airborne pathogens. And by ‘easy’, he means it. Genetic editing kits are already available for purchase online for 100 quid – but please don’t go getting any ideas.

If released into just ten airports, these types of deadly viruses could wipe out 30 million people in an event ‘way worse than what we’ve experienced today,’ Gates said.

He also went as far as branding bioterrorism as more dangerous to humanity than nuclear warfare. You wouldn’t know it from the news, but based on statistics, he’s right – we’re living in one of the most peaceful times in history.

That said, we’re also living in one of the busiest times. People travel a lot more, boosting virus-spreading capacity immensely. ‘You need just one person on the bus or plane or the airport and you get huge things.’ Tell us about it, Bill.

What’s his plan?

Gates admits that research and development costs to adequately prepare us for acts of bioterrorism and the next pandemic will be expensive. We’re talking tens of billions, ‘probably about a billion a year’ he says, from both US and UK governments.

These vast sums of money would fuel research that facilitates ‘making vaccines cheap, having big factories, eradicating the flu, getting rid of the common cold, and making vaccines just a little patch you put on your arm’ in the near future.

On top of this, he advises the World Health Organisation should form a new billion-dollar Pandemic Task Force. By carrying out ‘germ games’ – yes, he actually said that – teams would practice surveillance of biological hazards and carry out what to do if one released in crowded public spaces.

Whether the next virus emerges naturally, or due to bioterrorism, or at fault of a botched experiment by an amateur (or evil) scientist, these role-playing scenarios would arm professionals with stronger knowledge and prevention tactics.

After nearly a decade of telling literally everyone, ‘we are not ready for the next pandemic,’ Bill Gates has said that he hopes securing new funding for future research will enable him to write a book called ‘We ARE Ready For The Next Pandemic.’

Girl, I really, really hope so.