By Lola Augustine Brown
The good news is that we’re living longer than ever before. However, as American billionaire Bill Gates pointed out on his blog recently, “The longer you live, the more likely you are to develop a chronic condition.” And, he added, “of all the disorders that plague us late in life, one stands out as a particularly big threat to society: Alzheimer’s disease.” We don’t know what causes it and can‘t treat it, and it becomes more prevalent all the time.
Citing the enormous costs of the disease—the emotional drain on families and the economic burden on both families and the health-care system—Gates has announced that he’s invested $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund, a London-based private venture capital fund that aids collaboration between government and industry in the hope of finding and creating new treatments for Azheimer’s. Gates later said he would invest a further $50 million in start-up ventures to encourage innovators outside of the major drug companies to look at new ways to fight the disease. The money is Gates’s own, not that of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has long been fighting infectious diseases such as HIV and malaria.
On his blog, Gates wrote that he has watched family members suffer with the disease and that he’s “excited to join the fight”:
“We’ve seen scientific innovation turn once-guaranteed killers like HIV into chronic illnesses that can be held in check with medication. I believe we can do the same (or better) with Alzheimer’s.”
Of primary importance, he wrote, is making progress in five areas: better understanding of the progression of the disease, earlier detection and diagnosis, approaches to halt the progress of the disease, improved access to clinical trials, and better information management and sharing of what we learn.
“This is a frontier where we can dramatically improve human life,” Gates wrote. “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.”
Photo: Dreamstime/Kaspars Grinvalds.