Skoll's contribution will enable the foundation — which announced earlier this month that it was doubling its 2020 grantmaking budget from last year's $51.8 million — to quadruple its annual grantmaking to $200 million. The additional funding will support two priority areas: epidemiological tools such as COVID-19 testing and contract tracing, and respiratory devices and other medical equipment for low- and middle-income countries.
Testing is critical for reopening the economy, while serological testing is considered essential for collecting antibodies that might then be used to treat COVID-19. Based on emerging and evolving research, the foundation will invest in promising entrepreneurial approaches to testing and contact tracing. The Skoll team also is researching a range of emerging designs for alternative respiratory devices that can be manufactured in and/or supplied to low-resource countries, where the majority of coronavirus patients are unlikely to seek care in formal hospital settings and/or electricity often is unavailable to run ventilators.
In addition to awarding grants in support of COVID-19 response efforts since January, the foundation has awarded targeted emergency funding to enable grantees most in need of help to pivot their business models and ensure the safety of their teams and the people they serve.
Skoll recently suggested that his commitments to COVID-19-related work could reach $500 million across a range of initiatives by the end of the year. He also indicated that the work of the organizations he has founded — the Skoll Foundation, Capricorn Investment Group, and Participant— will evolve as the impacts of the pandemic become clearer over the coming months.
"Fifteen years ago...Jeff Skoll told me he worried that the work that he and other philanthropists were doing could be upended by a series of global threats. He was concerned and prescient in foreseeing the impact...that nuclear weapons, climate, or a pandemic...could cause on a global scale," said Skoll Foundation board member and former Skoll Global Threats Fund president Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist who now leads the nonprofit Ending Pandemics. "Now we are in the middle of one. Jeff ran head-first into this situation, making extraordinary new commitments of financial resources, intellectual capital, connections, and public service announcements — all aimed at preventing the needless suffering that good science, good policy, and good stories will curtail."
For a complete list of Skoll Foundation COVID-19 grant recipients to date, see the foundation's website.