Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has announced investments totaling $100 million in a venture capital fund and startups working to advance research on Alzheimer's disease.
In a blog post, Gates wrote that he had invested $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF), a public-private venture fund created by the United Kingdom's Department of Health, nonprofit Alzheimer's Research UK (ARUK), and leading pharmaceutical companies, including Biogen, GSK, J&J, Eli Lilly and Company, Otsuka (Astex), Pfizer, and Takeda. The investment — made from Gates's own funds and not through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — will be followed by investments totaling $50 million in startup ventures working to find treatments for Alzheimer's, Gates told Reuters.
Launched in 2015 and managed by SV Health, DDF has built an initial portfolio of twelve investments in drug discovery companies and projects — most of them in the UK and United States — in areas such as microglial biology and inflammation, mitochondrial dynamics, trafficking and membrane biology, and synaptic physiology and function. Gates's investment will enable DDF to expand its team and appoint a chief executive.
Gates said in his blog post that he was "hopeful that we can substantially alter the course of Alzheimer's" by making progress in five areas — understanding better how the disease unfolds, detecting and diagnosing it earlier, diversifying the Alzheimer's drug pipeline, making it easier to enroll people in clinical trials, and using data more effectively. While most major pharmaceutical companies continue to pursue the amyloid and tau pathways as targets for treatment, Gates noted, investment in DDF would help support "startups as they explore less mainstream approaches to treating dementia."
"I first became interested in Alzheimer's because of its costs — both emotional and economic — to families and healthcare systems," wrote Gates. "With all of the new tools and theories in development, I believe we are at a turning point in Alzheimer's R&D. Now is the right time to accelerate that progress before the major costs hit countries that can't afford high-priced therapies and where exposure to the kind of budget implications of an Alzheimer's epidemic could bankrupt health systems."
(Photo credit: GatesNotes)