Bill Gates releases mosquitoes during conference for malaria awareness

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gates at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in 2008.
Image: World Economic Forum.

Bill Gates, the founder of computer software company Microsoft, tried to bring attention to malaria while speaking at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference on Wednesday February 4 in Long Beach, California. He did so by releasing a "swarm" of mosquitoes from a jar, into the crowd.

"Malaria is spread by mosquitoes. I brought some. Here I'll let them roam around. There is no reason only poor people should be infected," said Gates as he opened the jar. After waiting a minute, Gates then stated that the mosquitoes were not infected with the disease.

"There is more money put into baldness drugs than into malaria. Now, baldness is a terrible thing and rich men are afflicted. That is why that priority has been set," said Gates jokingly.

The prank was first reported by Dave Morin, Facebook's manager, on the social networking and micro-blogging site Twitter. Morin stated that "Gates just released mosquito[e]s into the audience at TED and said: 'Not only poor people should experience this,'" followed by a smiley face.

Gates donated nearly US$170 million to the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative in September 2008 to fund research to fight malaria, and develop a vaccine.

The TED conference, held annually, features, among other things, the latest in technology, science, and politics. People who have previously spoken at the conference include former United States president Bill Clinton and former vice president Al Gore.