Bill Gates is taking on dementia and Alzheimer’s as his next healthcare funding project.
David Royse | LedeTree
The fact that people are living longer is mostly a great thing. Except when it’s not.
While lifespan is increasing, doctors and researchers are now starting to look at “healthspan.” Aging, while remaining relatively healthy. And the very process of aging, makes that tricky.
“The longer you live, the more likely you are to develop a chronic condition,” says Bill Gates in a new blog post. Bill Gates? Yes, the Microsoft founder, who has become one of the world’s biggest health research philanthropists. “Your risk of getting arthritis, Parkinson’s, or another non-infectious disease that diminishes your quality of life increases with each year.
“But of all the disorders that plague us late in life, one stands out as a particularly big threat to society: Alzheimer’s disease,” Gates says.
That’s why he’s taking on the brain disease as his next project.
Gates announced in his blog post Monday that he’s invested $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund—a private fund working to diversify the clinical pipeline and identify new targets for treatment. Gates is investing the money on his own, not through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – because he says it may be more than a decade before there are any results.
“Once that day comes, our foundation might look at how we can expand access in poor countries,” Gates says.
“You have a nearly 50 percent chance of developing the disease if you live into your mid-80s,” Gates notes. “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.
“Despite this growing burden, scientists have yet to figure out what exactly causes Alzheimer’s or how to stop the disease from destroying the brain,” Gates says.
“With all of the new tools and theories in development, I believe we are at a turning point in Alzheimer’s R&D,” he writes. “Now is the right time to accelerate that progress before the major costs hit countries that can’t afford high priced therapies and where exposure to the kind of budget implications of an Alzheimer’s epidemic could bankrupt health systems.
“This is a frontier where we can dramatically improve human life. It’s a miracle that people are living so much longer, but longer life expectancies alone are not enough. People should be able to enjoy their later years—and we need a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s to fulfill that.”