Bill Gates Announces $100 Million Investment in Alzheimer's Disease

Henrietta Brewer
November 13, 2017

Bill Gates had been investing around $50 million in Dementia Discovery Fund, which is a private-public research partnership which focuses to find the cure of major brain diseases.

Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates talks with a colleague before the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S. May 6, 2017.

While there are now treatments available for certain symptoms of Alzheimer's, there's no overall cure for the disease. Gates also said he plans to invest $50 million in emerging startups that are working on unique treatments, hoping to take a data-driven approach to discover how the disease progresses in its early forms.

"We have much better tools, we have more scientists", he explained.

The investment is not associated with Gates' Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dementia, of which Alzheimer's is the most common form, affects close to 50 million people worldwide and is expected to affect more than 131 million by 2050, according to the non-profit campaign group Alzheimer's Disease International.

With the number of people rapidly rising who suffer from Alzheimer's as well as other types of dementia, this disease is taking a growing toll both emotionally and financially as the average age expectancy grows higher, Gates said during an interview. Earlier this year biotech investment guru Neil Woodford pledged £15 million (around $19 million) to the fund, becoming its first backer beyond its core of Big Pharma founders (Biogen, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Takeda and Otsuka-subsidiary Astex), ARUK and the United Kingdom government. However, Gates told Reuters that it will be followed by another personal donation of $50 million to start-up ventures focused on Alzheimer's research. That's, in part, because it's personal.

"I know how very bad it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity, and there is nothing you can do about it", Gates wrote. "It feels a lot like you're experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew", he wrote. Current drugs can do no more than ease some of the symptoms.

Although Alzheimer's now has no cure, Gates expressed hope that the course of Alzheimer's can be substantially altered if progress is made in five key areas. "We need a lot of ideas here to give us the highest chance that will lead to an Alzheimer's cure". This would make it easier for researchers to look for patterns and identify new pathways for treatment, he said.

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