Billionaire Bill Gates will make a personal investment of $100 million to fight dementia, more specifically, the Alzheimer’s disease.  $50 million will go to the Dementia Discovery Fund while the rest will be invest start-up ventures working with Alzheimer’s research in no conventional approaches.

Though there is not a cure for Alzheimer’s disease nowadays, Bill Gates hopes that with his investment and scientific research there can be better treatments and drugs for the people who are dealing with these deteriorating conditions.

Bill Gates donation, Bill Gates Alzheimer's disease, Dementia and Alzheimer's prevention
The Microsoft founder pledged to donate a large sum of money for Alzheimer’s disease research. Image credit: The Verge

“It’s a huge problem, a growing problem, and the scale of the tragedy – even for the people who stay alive – is very high,” he said. “I hope that in the next 10 years that we have some powerful drugs, but it’s possible that won’t be achieved,” Gates added.

Dementia affects more than 50 million people worldwide

Alzheimer’s is the common form of dementia, which affects about 50 million people worldwide. However, as the longevity is rising worldwide, dementia is likely to become an increasing problem in society. According to the non-profit campaign group Alzheimer’s Disease International, there will be about 131 million people with dementia by 2050.

Sadly, despite several decades of investigation, scientists haven’t come up with a cure for this terrible disease. Some drugs can ease the symptoms, but none can slow down or reverse the progression of this degenerative disease. Currently, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, affecting more than 5 million Americans.

Because of this, Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, has decided to donate $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund, which is a venture capital fund that focuses on uniting efforts with the private sector and the governments to find better treatments for dementia. The DDF was created in 2015, and it involves drug enterprises such as GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Biogen Idec.

Gates will donate another $50 million in start-up ventures that research about the Alzheimer’s disease. They say these start-ups have some “less mainstream” approaches to the disease, which could be very interesting. However, he didn’t identify these companies.

Why is Gates interested in the Alzheimer’s disease?

Bill Gates is known for his philanthropic work, alongside his wife, in the poorest countries. His Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has helped to combat infectious diseases in different communities all over the world. However, his large investment in the research for Alzheimer’s disease has nothing to do with the foundation, for it is a personal investment of Gates.

Why he has taken such an interest in this type of dementia is something that has different answers. The billionaire explained that he has indeed seen people in his own family dealing with the disease, but it is not the only reason why he decided to take this step.

He explained that having Alzheimer’s disease is similar to a gradual death, which means that the person who suffers it disappears little by little. Alzheimer’s disease comes along with emotional problems and an important financial burden too.

“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), my family history isn’t the sole reason behind my interest in Alzheimer’s. But my personal experience has exposed me to how hopeless it feels when you or a loved one gets the disease,” said Gates. “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.”

The good news is that Bill Gates is very optimistic about the innovation and the treatments that can be achieved within a decade. When talking to experts last year, Gates highlighted five crucial areas to be taken into consideration: using better data, understanding how the disease develops, improving the ways Alzheimer’s is detected and diagnosed, considering different approaches, and making it easier for people to have access to clinical trials to test potential drugs.

Though Gates is not an expert in dementia, he said he can contribute with something else besides money. Given his background at Microsoft, he said he can add some value when it comes to managing data.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society charity, thanked for Gate’s contribution saying that it will certainly speed up the research and progress and that it will also help to reduce the stigma created around dementia.

“With Bill Gates now joining all those already united against dementia, there is new hope for advances in the care and cure of dementia,” he said in a statement.

Source: The Washington Post