Bill Gates: Reasons for optimism in 2022
But that ability is dependent on whether we can stop the next pandemic. We can’t afford to repeat the suffering of the last two years. The world had a chance to invest in the tools and systems that could’ve prevented the COVID-19 pandemic, and we didn’t take it. Now is the time to learn from our mistakes and take steps to prevent this terrible experience from ever happening again.
The good news is that the world no longer needs to be persuaded that stopping a pandemic is important. I’m hopeful that we’ll see broad support for pandemic preparedness efforts, and I plan on spending a lot of time advocating for them. This is the biggest and most important thing I’m going to work on in 2022. I’m currently writing a book that will come out some time next year, which lays out my plan for making sure that COVID-19 is the last pandemic.
“The good news is that the world no longer needs to be persuaded that stopping a pandemic is important. I’m hopeful that we’ll see broad support for pandemic preparedness efforts, and I plan on spending a lot of time advocating for them.”
I think we’ll see plenty of other reasons for optimism in 2022 as well, especially on the innovation front. I expect lots of progress as R&D that was put on hold by the pandemic picks up steam.
One of the things I’m most excited to track is the clinical trials for a promising new HIV preventative called islatravir. Today, you can reduce your risk of getting infected by either taking a pill every day or what’s called “on-demand prophylaxis.” Although both current options provide terrific protection, the former relies on the ability to take it regularly, and the latter requires planning ahead.
Islatravir is a pill that you take just once a month. The first results from the Phase II trials were released this summer, and they’re terrific so far. I look forward to seeing more next year, as well as following progress on Phase III trials. Our foundation helped fund a Phase III trial of the drug in Africa, which started in early 2021 and will study how effective the drug is for young women for the next several years.
Another area to watch for in 2022 is Alzheimer’s diagnostics. Huge progress has been made on this front recently, and there’s a decent chance that the first affordable, accessible blood test for Alzheimer’s will get approved next year. Although this won’t be a gamechanger yet for people who have the disease—which currently has no cure or even a way to slow it down—this test will accelerate progress in the quest for a treatment breakthrough.
I’m also looking forward to continuing the work of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Catalyst, and Fellows to make clean-energy innovations more available and affordable for everyone. They’re enabling breakthroughs across a broad range of areas, many of which are still years away. One area where we might see some real progress soon is in making green hydrogen fuels more affordable. This would be a huge step forward, because hydrogen fuels would enable long-duration energy storage and could be used to run things like large planes and industrial processes.
I’ve never been a big New Year’s resolution person. I don’t have any specific goal in mind for 2022 (although I guess I still have a couple more weeks to think of one). But what I do hope is that next year is a lot more settled than this one.
Human beings are naturally resistant to change. Whether it’s the massive global upheaval of the last two years or transitions closer to home, it’s never easy to adjust to new ways of living.
I think 2022 will be a year when many of us finally settle into a post-pandemic new normal. For me, that will mean going into the office a bit more as COVID cases hopefully go down. I want to find a new rhythm at home now that all three of my kids have moved away and my day isn’t as structured around finding time to spend with them. I’m looking forward to spending more time engaging with people through my blog and other channels. I’d like to keep up my COVID-era habit of watching lots of educational videos on YouTube and subscription services like Wondrium, because they’re a really great way to learn about obscure topics. (I now know more about glassmaking, birdwatching, and the history of American Samoa than I ever expected.)
I hope you and your loved ones also find a way to create new routines. There’s no question that the pandemic will create huge, lasting changes that will take years to fully understand, which can feel scary. One of my favorite authors, Yuval Noah Harari, once wrote that, “people are usually afraid of change because they fear the unknown. But the single greatest constant of history is that everything changes.”
The world has adapted to big disruptions before, and we’ll do it again. In the meantime, I wish you a very happy holiday season.