How we can end sickness from parasitic worms

Richard Branson holding up 200 parasitic worms with The END Fund
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 10 May 2023

More than 1.7 billion people in the world are currently at risk of having parasitic worms damage their health and potential.

Few challenges exist at this scale, but our experience shows that by pooling our resources, and collaborating around audacious visions, we can succeed – and in this case, bring an end to sickness from parasitic worms once and for all. 

I recently held a jar filled with 200 parasitic roundworms - a typical number found in the belly of an infected child. Worms just like them have held back humanity for millennia – stealing from children the chance to learn and play and stopping adults from being productive.

For five years now, Virgin Unite and I have been proud to partner with the END Fund and support its bold plan to disrupt worms’ hold on families, communities, and economies. For many of our world’s biggest global challenges, we already have the tools, we just need the will. This is indeed the case when it comes to ending neglected tropical diseases and to bringing an end to sickness from parasitic worms once and for all. The work of the End Fund is pioneering, affordable, and taking us on a path to creating a worm-free world. Medicines are currently being donated and governments are leading the effort to deliver them. For less than 50 cents per person per year we can act at scale and holistically solve this problem. Tackling these worms is a best buy in public health.

The END Fund
the END Fund

We first saw ‘the worm jar’ at an Audacious Ideas gathering on Necker Island in 2018, we were immediately compelled to join with other like-minded philanthropists in the fight. Since then, together with our incredible partners, we have helped to distribute more than 150 million treatments – reaching 50 million people last year alone.

The END Fund
the END Fund

This success story is one of many that have stemmed from the incredible Audacious Project – it has been an honour to help incubate the initiative, to host the initial gatherings on Moskito and Necker Island and to work in partnership with the wonderful Chris Anderson Skoll, ELMA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Scott Cook & Signe Ostby and more.

Black blue and white logo for the Audacious Project
Image from TED

Every Audacious investor believes that collaborative philanthropy can have a life-changing impact at a massive scale. Whether it be eliminating blinding eye diseases, decoding the communication of whales, or demanding criminal justice reform – Audacious projects stand out due to their big dreams and bold ideas for tackling global problems.

I am thrilled that the Audacious projects for 2023 have been announced – a collection of ideas that have the potential to change the world. I encourage you to learn all about them and be inspired to dream bigger dreams that will help make this world a better place.