Bill Gates, Billionaire Microsoft co-founder will invest $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF). Gates’ investment is personal and unrelated to the Gates Foundation.
In an interview with Reuters, the philanthropist described the emotional and financial tolls of the brain-wasting disease:
It’s a huge problem, a growing problem, and the scale of the tragedy – even for the people who stay alive – is very high.
Dementia, the most common form of Alzheimer’s, affects almost 50 million people worldwide. According to the non-profit group, Alzheimer’s Disease International, by 2050 it is projected to affect more than 131 million.
There is no treatment for the disease and only a few drugs try to “ease some of the symptoms.” The DDF was launched in 2015 and incorporates various drugmakers that have invested in nine start-up companies. These companies are working to determine potential ways to combat the biological process that leads to dementia.
Gates went on to say:
It’ll take probably 10 years before new theories are tried enough times to give them a high chance of success. So it’s very hard to hazard a guess (when an effective drug might be developed)…I hope that in the next 10 years that we have some powerful drugs, but it’s possible that won’t be achieved.
An additional $50 million will be invested in these start-ups that focus on “less mainstream” tactics to the disease. Gates revealed his personal motives:
I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity … It feels a lot like you’re experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew…Some of the men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer‘s, but I wouldn’t say that’s the sole reason (for this investment).
Chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society charity, Jeremy Hughes, was thankful for Gates’ “significant personal investment.” Hughes recognized the progress towards a cure would soon speed up and reduce the stigma concerning the disease. Hughes stated:
With Bill Gates now joining all those already united against dementia, there is new hope for advances in the care and cure of dementia.
Over the course of a year, Gates has discussed the field with disease experts. He has declared five areas of need:
Understanding better how Alzheimer’s unfolds, detecting and diagnosing it earlier, pursuing multiple approaches to trying to halt the disease, making it easier for people to take part in clinical trials of potential new medicines, and using data better.
Gates has further plans to award a grant that will build a global dementia platform, allowing researchers the capacity to observe patterns and identify new pathways for treatment.