Bill Gates (Photo: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is working with China’s health agency to help authorities there improve their standards, potentially creating a challenger to the world’s two most powerful regulators, billionaire Bill Gates said.

The U.S. and European regulatory dominance sometimes leads other agencies to reject medicines or vaccines that could have served a purpose in their own nations, Gates said at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

His foundation, which has spent about $12 billion on projects to improve global health in the last five years, has former employees of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration working to help the Chinese Food and Drug Administration, he said.

India and China “can never afford to spend $10,000 per citizen” for health care so they will need to innovate, Gates said. “That’s where a lot of the action will be.”

Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp., said countries like China and India face the need to set their own medical rules on many fronts, including thinking outside the box on issues such as what makes a doctor. Training only one type of Western-style doctor will likely be too expensive, he said. Some local “quacks” are quite good, he said, referring to a term used in the Indian medical vernacular that describes individuals practicing medicine without a formal degree or training by common western standards.

Gates, whose foundation focuses on diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, said he has seen a surprising convergence in the research between diseases such as cancer that largely afflict rich countries and ailments typical of poorer nations such as HIV and malnutrition. He cited research into the microbiome, which his foundation delved into years ago to investigate malnutrition and is now cited as the potential source of diseases from Alzheimer’s to autism.

“The research agendas for the rich and developing world are more aligned than you might think,” he said.

— Read Why Hospitals Haven’t Been in the Drug Business on ThinkAdvisor.


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