You many have heard the recent news that Bill Gates has taken on an ambitious new project—fighting Alzheimer disease.1 The Gates foundation has typically worked on communicable diseases, and this is the first non-communicable disease that has received this much funding and attention from Gates. In fact, he has invested $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF), a private fund, which is separate from the Gates foundation. The reason for this impressive dedication to Alzheimer disease is that, as Gates writes in his own blog, he personally sees Alzheimer disease as a big threat to our society, both economically and in terms of the impact on quality of life.
Among other strategies, DDF funds start-ups that explore diverse approaches to the treatment of dementia, beyond, and in addition to, the traditional tau and amyloid route.
After a year of learning about the current understanding of the disease process and its practical costs to society, Gates has spelled out a plan to approach the future of Alzheimer care in a methodical way with 5 main goals:
• Gain a better understanding of the disease
• Develop better diagnostic tools to identify and diagnose Alzheimer disease
• Improve treatment through research that incorporates diverse approaches to stopping the disease
• Improve efficiency of the clinical trial process by making it easier to identify people who are eligible to enroll in studies and making the enrollment process more efficient
• Make better use of the information that is obtained from trials; according to Gates “We should compile this data in a common form, so that we get a better sense of how the disease progresses”
Alzheimer disease has been a personal struggle for many families, often stealing what could have been peaceful golden years from those who are afflicted by the illness, and from their loved ones. Gates observes that as people are living longer, we are all more likely to develop chronic conditions such as Alzheimer disease. All neurologists have seen the pain that this condition causes, and the current scientific advances only allow us to mitigate some of the difficult burden, but thus far, have not provided tangible results.
We don’t really have a way to gain insight into the personal experiences of those afflicted with Alzheimer disease, but we do know that loved ones, particularly the elderly spouses who shoulder the greatest load as caregivers, suffer a tremendous burden as they care for those who deteriorate from this incurable disease.
This new commitment to overcoming such a mysterious and serious medical condition may offer novel breakthroughs to improve lives around the world.
1. Gates B. Why I’m Digging Deep Into Alzheimer’s. GatesNotes. November 13, 2017. https://www.gatesnotes.com/Health/Digging-Deep-Into-Alzheimers. Accessed December 15, 2017.