The philanthropist and Microsoft founder announced in a blog post Monday that he will give $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund, a public-private partnership that invests in innovative dementia research.
While there are now treatments available for certain symptoms of Alzheimer's, there's no overall cure for the disease.
In a blog post, Mr. Gates outlined his reasons for donating, saying that Alzheimer's and dementia greatly reduce quality of life, take an extreme emotional toll on families and put an huge economic burden on the nation's health care system. He says the Gates Foundation might consider how to expand access in poorer countries when treatments are developed. That's, in part, because it's personal.
Although there are some genetic links to the disease, the primary risk factor for Alzheimer's is age.
"My personal experience has exposed me to how hopeless it feels when you or a loved one gets the disease", he writes.
With rapidly rising numbers of people suffering from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, the disease is taking a growing emotional and financial toll as people live longer, Gates told Reuters in an interview. When a loved one is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, family members may notice changes in their personality and behavior, including depression, social withdrawal, mood swings, lack of trust in others, wandering, change in sleeping habits, loss of inhibitions, irritability and delusions. "It's a miracle that people are living so much longer, but longer life expectancies alone are not enough".
"Gates has invested a great deal of time to better understand the full scope of the disease and how he can play a significant role in accelerating progress", the non-profit said in a statement.
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the sixth-leading cause of death overall.
"People should be able to enjoy their later years - and we need a breakthrough in Alzheimer's to fulfill that", Gates said.
If you or someone you know are exhibiting early signs of Alzheimer's disease, speak to a physician about your condition. Today more people survive cancer than die from it and with sufficient investment in dementia research we know the same tremendous progress will be possible for people and families affected by dementia too.