In a pair of $50 million investments announced Monday, billionaire Bill Gates is joining the fight against dementia, with a focus on Alzheimer’s.
The first $50 million — which Gates announced on his blog — will go to Dementia Discovery Fund to help “diversify the clinical pipeline and identify new targets for treatment.” The second $50 million, Gates told Reuters, will go to “start-up ventures working in Alzheimer’s research.”
The money will come from Gates himself, not the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s,” Gates wrote on his blog. “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.”
Citing statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2016 report on the disease, Gates wrote that people have a “nearly 50% chance of developing the disease” if they live into their mid-80s. He further cited statistics around the disease’s impact on:
Patient death: “In the United States, it is the only cause of death in the top 10 without any meaningful treatments that becomes more prevalent each year.”
Personal health insurance costs: “A person with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia spends five times more every year out-of-pocket on healthcare than a senior without a neurodegenerative condition.”
Family expense burdens: “Americans will spend $259 billion caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 2017.”
He also noted that the number of people projected to suffer from dementia by 2050 will move from approximately 20 million in 2015 in high-income countries to approximately 40 million in 2050, with cases in low- and middle-income countries growing in that same time from approximately 45 million to approximately 130 million.
As a result of current and projected figures along with his personal experience, Gates wrote that he is “hopeful that we can substantially alter the course of Alzheimer’s” by making progress in five areas:
1. Understand how Alzheimer’s unfolds
2. Detect and diagnose the disease earlier
3. Develop new approaches to stopping the disease
4. Make it easer to get people enrolled in clinical trials
5. Improve usage of data around the disease
This is the first noncommunicable disease Gates has committed to fighting, according to CNN. For more information about his investment, see Gates’ interview with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, along with a press release from Dementia Discovery Fund.
Written by Jack Silverstein