Singapore—Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and one of the richest men in China, has vowed to donate 100 million yuan (S$19.6 million) to help find a vaccine. This is in addition to a previous financial pledge from Alibaba for medical supplies to the virus’ hardest-hit areas.
A social media post from the Jack Ma Foundation on Wednesday (Jan 29) announced that from the total amount of the donation, Mr Ma set aside 40 million yuan (S$7.86 million) for two Chinese government research organizations, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering. The rest of the donation will be distributed to scientists at institutions around the world who are similarly developing a vaccine.
In a post on Wednesday, the foundation promised over Weibo that “Jack Ma Foundation will exhaust our abilities to provide more help to the development and growth of medical science.
Mr Ma, whom Forbes called the richest man in China in 2019, has a personal net worth of $42.8 billion (S$58.3 billion). He is listed as 19th on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
On Sunday (Jan 26) Alibaba already announced that it was setting up a fund for the amount of one billion yuan (S$196 million) for medical supplies for Hubei in central China. Wuhan, Hubei, the city where the virus originated is currently in lockdown and is home to 11 million people.
Additionally, Alibaba has said it will provide free Artificial Intelligence (AI) services to scientific organizations doing research on finding treatments or vaccines.
The state-owned China Daily has reported that other tech giants have donated to funding research for the novel coronavirus vaccine, including Huawei, Tencent, Baidu and ByteDance, the owner of the enormously popular TikTok.
Elsewhere in the world donations are also pouring in from other philanthropists, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, who are donating US$10 million (S$13.6 million) to aid first responders in China and Africa, half of which will go to international cooperation, treatment and vaccine development.
Frenchman Bernard Arnault, the third wealthiest individual in the world and head of luxury fashion brand LVMH, is donating $2.3 million (S$3.1 million), Francois Pinault, founder of another luxury firm, Kering, is donating $1million (S$1.36 million),
Mr Pinault said, “Our thoughts are with the many impacted by the novel coronavirus outbreak, and therefore we have decided to donate the funds as an immediate contribution to assist.”
However, the CEO of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis said on Wednesday (Jan 29) that it could take at least one year to develop a vaccine that would treat the virus, adding that its rapid spread should be taken “really seriously.”
“The reality is, it will take over a year in my expectation to really find a new vaccine for this so, we need to really use epidemiological controls to really get this situation in a better place,” said Vas Narasimhan, the chief executive of Novartis.
Mr Narasimhan’s time frame estimate of one year was echoed by Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. -/TISG
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