Published: Mon, November 13, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Gates streams $50m into Britain's Dementia Discovery Fund

Gates streams $50m into Britain's Dementia Discovery Fund

Billionaire Bill Gates is personally investing $50 million to help fund research to find a treatment for Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia that Gates says has struck members of his own family.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in 2016.

Major pharmaceutical companies like Novartis and Janssen are in the midst of clinical trials for drugs that slow down the disease's progress.

Bill Gates will first invest $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund. This will not only speed up the progress we make towards finding a cure, but his attention to the cause will also help to eliminate the negative stigma that still exists around dementia to help create a better world for the 50 million people globally who are living with the condition today.

Mr. Gates said in his blog post that while men in his family suffer from Alzheimer's, his personal connection to the disease is not the only reason for the investment.

Alzheimer's is a form of dementia that affects more than 5 million Americans.

"This fact-that people are living longer than ever before-should always be a wonderful thing", Gates said on his blog.

Gates said, however, that with focused and well-funded innovation, he's "optimistic" treatments can be found, even if they might be more than a decade away.

The DDF, which was launched in 2015 and involves drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Biogen Idec as well as the United Kingdom government, has already invested in at least nine start-up companies investigating potential ways to stop or reverse the biological processes that lead to dementia.

The other $50 million will go to startup companies pursuing "less mainstream" approaches to treating the disease, although the companies have not been chosen yet, Reuters reported.

The philanthropist, whose usual focus is on infectious diseases in poorer countries, said Alzheimer's caught his interest partly for personal reasons, and partly because it has so far proved such a tough nut to crack. "We need a lot of ideas here to give us the highest chance that will lead to an Alzheimer's cure".

The multi-billionaire philanthropist said finding treatment for Alzheimer s, which affects almost 50 million people worldwide, was particularly urgent since improved medical care meant people were living longer.

"My personal experience has exposed me to how hopeless it feels when you or a loved one gets the disease", he writes. This would make it easier for researchers to look for patterns and identify new pathways for treatment, he said.

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