Americans spent an estimated $236bn last year caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Mr Gates declined to blame the pharma industry for its failure so far to produce an effective treatment. “I am impressed by the drug companies, to be honest, because it is a daunting field,” he said. “If you get something [after more than 10 years R&D] the value will be incredible but if you don’t, which has unfortunately been the case so far, people second-guess and say ‘You should have known that, you shouldn’t have invested in that area’.”
He praised pharma and biotech companies, big and small, for remaining engaged, despite past failures. Although Mr Gates is determinedly optimistic about the chances of success, he declines to predict when a breakthrough will come or what it might be.
“Making any prediction is hard since the kind of brute force attack on the plaques did not so far yield a result,” he said. “The brain is by far the most mysterious organ because we still don’t know even the basic processes, like how memories are formed.”