Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have announced that their foundation will commit $10 billion over the next 10 years to help research in developing and delivering vaccines for the world's poorest countries.
The couple said that increased investment in vaccines by governments and the private sector could help developing countries dramatically reduce child mortality by the end of the decade.
"We must make this the decade of vaccines," said Gates.
"Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries. Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before."
The Gates made their announcement at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting at Davos, where they were joined by Julian Lob-Levyt, CEO of the GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation).
"Vaccines are a miracle -- with just a few doses, they can prevent deadly diseases for a lifetime. We've made vaccines our number-one priority at the Gates Foundation because we've seen firsthand their incredible impact on children's lives," said Melinda Gates.
The foundation used a model developed by a consortium led by the Institute of International Programs at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to project the potential impact of vaccines on childhood deaths over the next 10 years.
By significantly scaling up the delivery of life-saving vaccines in developing countries to 90 percent coverage -- including new vaccines to prevent severe diarrhea and pneumonia -- the model suggests that the deaths of some 7.6 million children under five could be prevented from 2010-2019.
The foundation also estimates that an additional 1.1 million children could be saved with the rapid introduction of a malaria vaccine beginning in 2014, bringing the total number of potential lives saved to 8.7 million.
If additional vaccines are developed and introduced in this decade -- such as for tuberculosis -- even more lives could be saved. The new funding is in addition to the $4.5 billion that the Gates Foundation has already committed to vaccine research, development and delivery to date across its entire disease portfolio since its inception.
Bill and Melinda Gates said their pledge was inspired by the remarkable progress made on vaccines in recent years.