Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has announced he will invest $50 million for venture capital fund Dementia Discovery Fund that brings government and industry together to seek treatments for the disease that debilitates the brain.
The investment is not associated with Gates’ Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Another $50 million will follow for several startups working in research for Alzheimer’s said Gates.
With the number of people rapidly rising who suffer from Alzheimer’s as well as other types of dementia, this disease is taking a growing toll both emotionally and financially as the average age expectancy grows higher, Gates said during an interview.
He called it a growing problem, a huge problem and one where the scale of tragedy, even for those who remain alive, is extremely high.
Despite scientific research for decades, there is no treatment that slows the progression of the disease, as current drugs cannot do any more than to ease some symptoms.
However, Gates said, that with well-funded and focused innovation, he was optimistic treatments will be found, even if they are over a decade in the future.
Gates said this will likely take at least 10 years for new theories to be tried sufficient times to give them a strong chance of success. Therefore, he added it was very difficult to guess when effective treatment might finally be developed.
He was realistic by adding that he hoped that within 10 years some strong drugs were available, but there is the possibility that will not be achieved.
Dementia, which Alzheimer’s is the most common type, affects nearly 50 million people globally and by 2050 it is expected that that over 131 million will be affected.
The DDF, which in 2015 was launched and involves Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Biogen Idec and GlaxoSmithKline along with the government of the UK, has invested in nine startups that investigate the possible ways of stopping or of reversing the processes biologically that lead to dementia.
In addition Gates said $50 million more would be injected into startups that are working on less mainstream types of approaches to the horrific disease, but said those companies were not identified as of yet.
The philanthropist, whose focus usually involves infectious diseases in poorer countries, said that Alzheimer’s took his attention for personal reasons in part, and because it has been so difficult to find any treatment.