Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has announced his newest initiative is to help cure Alzheimer’s, a disease which several men in his family have had. He will be investing 50 million dollars with the Dementia Discovery Fund, a venture fund focused entirely on discovering and developing novel therapies for dementia.

Gates, in a press release, explained:

“I believe we are at a turning point in Alzheimer’s research and development, which the Dementia Discovery Fund is playing an important role in by exploring new approaches to treat the disease. 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 fulfil that. I’m excited to join the fight and can’t wait to see what happens next.”

Alzheimer’s is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and the most common form of dementia.

Dementia Discovery Fund

Launched in 2015, the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF) has made significant progress building an initial portfolio of 12 investments in drug discovery companies and projects predominantly in the UK and US in areas including microglial biology and inflammation, mitochondrial dynamics, trafficking and membrane biology and synaptic physiology and function.

The DDF team believes there is a significant opportunity to develop dementia drugs targeting biological pathways beyond the prevailing amyloid beta hypothesis and to apply insights from areas such as oncology and immunology to develop novel drugs targeting these other biological pathways that may drive different forms of dementia.

This is the first time that Bill Gates has made a commitment to fighting a noncommunicable disease. Previous health initiatives taken on by his foundation has focused primarily on infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria and polio.

The DDF is uniquely positioned to benefit from the expertise of its world-class Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) which includes heads of Neuroscience and/or R&D from seven major pharma companies (Biogen, Eli Lilly and Company, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Otsuka (Astex), Pfizer and Takeda) and ARUK, who collectively have a large network and experience in neuroscience drug discovery.

The SAB provides ongoing advice and knowledge, offers insights on different approaches and historical failures, suggests priority areas to explore new approaches to treat dementia and advises on strategies to drugging these new pathways.

With this increased investment the DDF team will grow, including the appointment of a Chief Executive to lead the organization.

Image: Adrian Cousins, Wellcome Images

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