Tuesday, 27 February 2018 00:00

Bill Gates invests $50 million in the fight against Alzheimer’s

2017 saw Microsoft billionaire, Bill Gates, turn his attention to the fight against Alzheimer’s in a big way.

He believes that with enough research, a better understanding of the disease, early detection, better use of data and increased availability to clinical trials, there is a fighting chance Alzheimer’s can be managed and held in-check the way many other chronic diseases are.

He expressed on his personal blog, Gatesnotes, that his interest and passion towards the fight against Alzheimer’s is largely driven by his own personal experiences with the disease.

Over the past few years, Gates himself has experienced the struggle and desperation of watching close family members being robbed of their mental capacity. He has seen loved ones turning into shadows of themselves due to the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Throughout 2017 Gates made it his mission to spend time learning and understanding the inner workings of Alzheimer’s, as well as the progress made in research and clinical trials to-date.

What he found was both positive and inspiring and he believes that the course of Alzheimer’s can be altered if these five areas of progress are concentrated on:

1. Better understanding how Alzheimer’s unfolds – the disease’s underlying causes and biology need to be better understood and analysed.

2. Alzheimer’s needs to be detected and diagnosed earlier – Gates calls for a more reliable, affordable and accessible means of testing for Alzheimer’s, such as a blood test which tracks progress and effectiveness of Alzheimer’s medication.

3. An increased number of approaches to stop Alzheimer’s is needed – a more diverse pipeline to test and prevent Alzheimer’s is needed in order to increase the odds at discovering a breakthrough.

4. Increased accessibility to clinical trials – the process of building a worthwhile clinical trial currently takes too long. This time needs to be minimised by developing a process to pre-qualify participants and create registries which will encourage clinical trials to begin more quickly.

5. Data needs to be used better – data from all the hundreds of clinical trials and research studies on Alzheimer’s needs to be consolidated into one common forum. This way, it will make it easier for researchers to look for patterns and identify new pathways for treatment through this forum of data. 

Gates has expressed that brilliant steps have already been taken in the research and fight against Alzheimer’s, but he believes more can be done. In November 2017, he donated $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund in order to kick start the diversification of the clinical pipeline and find new targets for treatment.

In his blog he wrote: 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.’

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