Science 6 min read

Bill Gates Investing $100 Million to Help Find Cure for Alzheimer's

Thomas Hawk |

Thomas Hawk |

Tech billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates will be investing millions of dollars to help find the cure for Alzheimer’s.

In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates announced that he would be investing millions of dollars of his own personal funds to help find one of the ‘Holy Grails’ of science: a cure for Alzheimer’s.

On Monday, Gates said that $50 million USD from his own funds would be invested to the Dementia Discovery Fund, a close collaboration between charity, industry, and government that invests in innovative dementia research.

“I believe there is a solution.”

-Bill Gates

“Any type of treatment would be a huge advance from where we are today,” Gates told CNN. He went on to say that “the long-term goal has got to be cure.”

#BillGates set to invest $100 million USD to find a cure for #AlzheimersClick To Tweet

Gates further confirmed that on top of the $50 million USD that will go to Dementia Discovery Fund, another $50 million USD would be used to fund startup ventures working in Alzheimer’s research, raising his total investment in Alzheimer’s research to one hundred million dollars.

In a separate interview with Reuters, Gates said that the continuing rise in the number of people who have Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have already taken its emotional and financial toll as people live longer.

“It’s a huge problem, a growing problem, and the scale of the tragedy–even for the people who stay alive–is very high,” he said.

Finding Cure for Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys the memory and thinking skills of a person. It is the most common cause of dementia, or the inability of a person to carry out even the simplest tasks due to loss of cognitive functioning. This disease is usually first observed in people in their mid-60s.

Currently, Alzheimer’s is ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. However, some estimates suggest that it may rank third, next to cancer and heart disease.

2017 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures
2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures | Alzheimer’s Association |

According to the 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures released by the Alzheimer’s Association, a voluntary health organization involved in the disease’s care, support, and research program, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and the figure could rise as high as 16 million by 2020.

Decades after Alzheimer’s was discovered by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906, researchers had failed to discover effective treatments. In fact, despite advancement in medical research and technology, scientists don’t yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease in most people.

To date, modern drugs are developed to alleviate, delay or simply manage the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s.

“It’ll take probably 10 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 10 years that we have some powerful drugs, but it’s possible that won’t be achieved,” Gates said.

Gates also revealed that some members of his family suffer from the disease.

“Several of the men in my family have this disease. And so, you know, I’ve seen how tough it is. That’s not my sole motivation, but it certainly drew me in,” he told Dr. Gupta.

According to records, over 400 Alzheimer’s drug trials were run since 2002, but treatment has not been found. Alzheimer Society’s CEO Jeremy Hughes gladly welcomed Gates’ ‘significant personal investment.’

“With Bill Gates now joining all those already united against dementia, there is new hope for advances in the care and cure of dementia.”

Right now, advanced imaging technology has proven to be one of the most significant innovations in the study of Alzheimer’s. The said tech allows researchers to see tau and amyloid in living people.

Dr. James Hendrix, Alzheimer Association’s Global Science Innovation Head, firmly believes that the imaging technology is a significant game-changer. He said:

“You need good tools to find the right therapeutics.”

Dr. Rudy Tanzi, a Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, echoed the same sentiment. He pointed out that the greatest setback with some clinical trials is not due to the treatment itself. Instead, the issue lies with the application.

“It’s like trying to give someone Lipitor when they have a heart attack. You had to do it earlier,” he explained.

To that end, read this article where AI has been used to suss out signs of Alzheimer’s a decade before symptoms appear.

Multimodal imaging used by researchers to find cure for Alzheimer's
Multimodal imaging used by researchers to find cure for Alzheimer’s | The Lancet |

Gates hopes that his investment will help spur research into more novel ideas about the disease. He believes that the future cure for Alzheimer’s lies in combined mainstream and out-of-the-box thinking.

Some researchers have even tried using lasers to combat Alzheimer’s, which you can read about here.

“Ideally, some of these mainstream drugs that report out in the next two or three years will start us down the path of reducing the problem. But I do think these newer approaches will eventually be part of that drug regimen that people take.”

Experts are encouraging healthy people and those with Alzheimer’s disease to take part in clinical trials and studies. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which leads the Federal Government’s research efforts on Alzheimer’s, at least 70,000 volunteers are needed to participate in over 150 active clinical trials and studies being conducted to understand the disease and eventually find the cure for Alzheimer’s.

If you want to volunteer, you can get in touch with one of the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers (ADC) in your state.

How much do you plan to invest in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s (whether that’s money, volunteer time, or research)?

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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