Research into dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is getting a significant injection of cash after Bill Gates pledged $100 million (£75 million) of his own money to the cause. The co-founder of Microsoft will split the funding between two pathways to help find a cure for the neurological conditions.
The first $50 million will go to the Dementia Discovery Fund, which works with experts both in the industry and government to harness the best minds to find treatments. The second half of the money will help to further the work of several start-ups that are researching Alzheimer’s, reports Reuters.
While Gates is well-known for his philanthropy through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this latest donation is from his own personal fortune. He has spoken out about the emotional and financial toll the two conditions are taking on the population, as people live longer into old age.
“It's a huge problem, a growing problem, and the scale of the tragedy - even for the people who stay alive - is very high,” Gates added. His comments reflect the fact that so far, no cure has been found for the conditions, just drugs that ease some of the symptoms.
Gates’ optimism in this area is undimmed, however, as he believes that a cure could be found, even if it is ten years or more into the future. By contributing funds to focused innovation, he could be helping this aim to be realised.
“It'll take probably ten 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 ten years that we have some powerful drugs, but it's possible that won't be achieved,” he said.
Despite popular belief, dementia and Alzheimer’s are not the same thing. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, with the umbrella term encompassing the conditions suffered by some 50 million people across the planet.
According to predictions made by Alzheimer’s Disease International, this figure will increase to 131 million by the year 2050. That is why so many scientists are keen to make progress in attempts to find a cure.
While Gates has mainly focused on lending his support to the fight against infectious diseases in poorer parts of the world, he said that he had several reasons for joining the fight against Alzheimer’s. Part of the motivation was personal, but it was also down to the fact that the problem is proving so hard to solve.
The billionaire has been doing his research and spoken to a number of experts in the field about Alzheimer’s over the past 12 months. As a result, Gates has identified five areas in which he believes more attention needs to be given.
They are: a better understanding of how Alzheimer’s develops; earlier detection and diagnosis; proliferating the number of approaches to halting the disease; making clinical trials more accessible; and a better use of data.