Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Alzheimer’s — a progressive form of dementia that destroys memory and other mental functions — affects over 5 million people in the U.S. according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That figure could reach 16 million by 2050.
“It’s very tough,” Gates said of the disease’s emotional toll on patients and their families. “It’s like a gradual death in terms of the person that you knew.”
The $100 million dollar donation will be separated into two commitments: $50 million will go toward start-up ventures conducting Alzheimer’s research while another $50 million will go toward the Dementia Discovery Fund, a venture capital program that unites government and private-sector efforts that focus on medical breakthroughs.
In a video shared on his blog (see below) Gates pinpoints a few critical factors that will play roles in the coming decades. Continuing research is vital, of course. Nailing down a diagnostic that can show the disease’s progression — like a simple blood test — could be a game-changer as well. Researchers must also try lots of theories on their road to new discoveries, make drug trial processes faster, and continue to collect data and make it accessible in a common form, Gates said.
Gates is hopeful positive change is on the horizon though.