Michael Milken Is Holding Out For a Coronavirus Testing Kit

Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

Michael Milken Is Holding Out For a Coronavirus Testing Kit
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Michael Milken, the former junk-bond king and one-time symbol of 1980s Wall Street greed, is less interested in talking about his recent pardon by President Donald Trump than how to rein in coronavirus.

At the Montgomery Summit on Wednesday, the financier and philanthropist said he's considering whether to offer a prize to help accelerate finding a test kit that could seriously slow its spread. He expects a coronavirus testing kit will appear in the next six months.


"Science can accomplish in an hour what might have taken in a year," he said. "We should be much better prepared to deal with this issue, once we get the facts."

Milken said that a prototype could be ready by the time he holds the Milken Institute's annual conference in May and if not, he has slotted a time in July.

The financier, who was convicted of violating securities and tax laws in an insider-trading scheme, emerged from a federal prison decades ago and immersed himself in a bevy of philanthropic pursuits and medical research.

Milken, who founded his eponymous economic institute, compared the fear that's spreading now to what Americans felt when they saw former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson announce he had HIV and quit the team. At the time, many feared the virus would grow and be spread widely to children. Now, that's rare.

But, he thinks this is a seminal moment where big health companies could come together to mobilize like Ford and other companies did during World War II.

"Let's get them coalesced around and see what they can do, and bring this to an end as soon as possible," he said.

But in the meantime, he said he's worried about the glut of small businesses around the world that could shut down in the wake of a spread.

"For a person that needs your paycheck to pay their rent or to eat, or to pay health care costs...someone's going to need to provide a solution if the employer doesn't keep on," he said.

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