On view: March 1 – August 18, 2018
Opening Celebration – March 1, 5 – 8 p.m. FREE

(Seattle, WA – Feb 23, 2018) Throughout history, the world has managed to eradicate just one human disease—smallpox. Today, thanks to the dedication of numerous organizations, donors, corporations, governments, researchers, health-care workers, and volunteers on the ground, we are on the verge of eradicating two more: Guinea worm disease and polio. In 2017, there were only 30 Guinea worm cases in two countries and 22 wild polio cases in two countries. The challenges of eradicating diseases are enormous, but through dedicated research, smart strategies, and political will—it can be done.
Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease, opening at the Gates Foundation Discovery Center on March 1, 2018, highlights the more-than-30-year campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease, the ongoing programs to eradicate polio, and the local elimination of many neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, leishmaniasis, and sleeping sickness.

Developed by the American Museum of Natural History in New York in collaboration with The Carter Center and adapted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the exhibition uses stunning photography, videography, artifacts, and hands-on interactives to highlight several global efforts underway to combat diseases around the world.
“One of our duties, yours and mine, is to inspire our children and grandchildren to take on challenges and risks that at first may seem overwhelming or even impossible,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center has led the fight against Guinea worm disease since 1986. “They need to understand that the only failure is not to try. We can overcome many global challenges when we all work together as a global community. When nations and leaders and scientists and caring people focus on shared dreams, we can build a better world.”

Countdown to Zero at the Gates Foundation Discovery Center features many interactive elements that educate about diseases and the strategies underway to defeat them. Visitors can take a closer look at tsetse flies, mosquitoes, sandflies, and other bugs that spread diseases under a microscope and explore challenges in disease eradication.

The exhibit will also display a number of “pipe filters,” which are worn by many people around their necks and used as straws to filter drinking water, as well as educational materials that raise awareness about diseases, including items like picture books for those who cannot read. “We are thrilled to partner with our colleagues at the American Museum of Natural History and The Carter Center to present this exhibition in Seattle,” said Charlotte Beall, Deputy Director of the Gates Foundation Discovery Center. “We hope to increase awareness about neglected tropical diseases and inspire our community to take action to help reach the last mile to end the suffering facing our most poor and marginalized communities around the world. While many of these diseases are not prevalent in the U.S. anymore, the inequities in health care exist here and abroad, and the goal of living a healthy life is universal and possible.”

“We are delighted that Countdown to Zero will now be on view in Seattle at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center, next to the foundation’s headquarters,” said Dr. Mark Siddall, curator of Countdown to Zero and a curator in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology. “The exhibition resonates with so many people because at its core Countdown to Zero reveals the triumph of our collective sense of humanity. Whether diseases are eradicated with vaccines or drugs or just by filtering water, incredible things are achieved because people, whole communities, work together for common good.”

The exhibition debuted at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 2015 followed by presentations in London, The Carter Center in Atlanta, and Abu Dhabi.

Several of the diseases highlighted within the exhibition also fall into a category called Neglected Topical Diseases (NTDs). While not all of these diseases have the potential to be universally eradicated with the current tools and knowledge, there are a number of interventions that can reduce the risk and prevent these diseases to either eliminate (within a country or region) or control (reduce under a certain percentage in the

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of parasitic and bacterial infectious diseases that affect over 1.5 billion of the world’s most impoverished people, including 875 million children. They cause severe pain, long-term disability, and are the cause of death for over 170,000 people per year. Amongst children, infection leads to malnutrition, cognitive impairment, stunted growth, and the inability to attend school. Adults suffer from social isolation and are unable to work, and anemia caused by NTDs increases the risk of maternal mortality. All of these factors make NTDs both an indicator and a source of poverty.

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Like polio, battling neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) is a priority for the Gates Foundation. The foundation is part of Uniting to Combat NTDs, a global coalition of partners committed to the control, elimination and, in some cases, eradication of NTDs. To date, the foundation has committed more than $1.02 billion in grants to organizations developing new tools and methods of delivery that make these interventions widely available. The Gates Foundation makes sure their investments complement the work of donor governments and developing countries, which provide most of the funding to combat these diseases. The foundation also advocates for increased international funding and attention to support these efforts.

Located next to Seattle Center and the headquarters of the Gates Foundation, the Gates Foundation Discovery Center is a catalyst to educate, inspire, and motivate local and global awareness and action. Through exhibits and programs, the Discovery Center convenes and connects people to relevant topics, stories and resources to inspire action in our hometown and beyond. Admission is always free.

In the Discovery Center, there will be opportunities for visitors to help deliver neglected tropical disease treatments through donations to the END Fund via their own mobile phones. The END Fund is dedicated to the fight against neglected tropical diseases which impact over 1.5 billion people globally. They work with countries and organizations to deliver low-cost drug administration to millions of people annually. For just 50 cents, a person can be treated for 5 NTDs for one year.

The American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions. The Museum encompasses 45 permanent exhibition halls, including those in the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions. It is home to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, New York State’s official memorial to its 33rd governor and the nation’s 26th president, and a tribute to Roosevelt’s enduring legacy of conservation. The Museum’s five active research divisions and three cross-disciplinary centers support approximately 200 scientists, whose work draws on a world-class permanent collection of more than 34 million specimens and artifacts, as well as specialized collections for frozen tissue and genomic and astrophysical data, and one of the largest natural history libraries in the world. Through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, it is the only American museum authorized to grant the Ph.D. degree. Beginning in 2015, the Richard Gilder Graduate School also began granting the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree, the only such freestanding museum program. Annual visitation has grown to approximately 5 million, and the Museum’s exhibitions and Space Shows are seen by millions more in venues on six continents. The Museum’s website, mobile apps, and MOOCs (massive open online courses) extend its scientific research and collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to additional audiences around the globe. Visit for more information.

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic pportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center, based in Atlanta, Georgia, was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University. Beginning with the Center’s leadership of the international Guinea worm eradication campaign since 1986, the Center has pioneered neglected disease eradication and elimination by targeting river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, blinding trachoma, and malaria (the latter on the island of Hispaniola). The International Task Force for Disease Eradication is housed at The Carter Center and chaired by former Carter Center Vice President for Health Programs Dr. Donald Hopkins, now the Center’s special adviser for Guinea worm eradication. The Center uses evidence-based practices to carefully evaluate whether its interventions are significantly reducing the burden of disease. In conjunction with ministries of health and other partner organizations, The Carter Center conducts rigorous annual peer reviews and evaluations of its five infectious disease health programs. Visit for more information.

Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Summer hours (Memorial Day – Labor Day): Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Admission is always free.

Media Relations Contact

Cara Egan Senior Communications Officer


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