There are an estimated 5.5 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, by 2040, that number is expected to jump to roughly 11.6 million. Something needs to be done to combat Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The fight against Alzheimer’s is nothing new, but it still remains one of the most important battles in the medical field. In 2011, for example, the United States government allotted $450 million for Alzheimer’s research. Recently, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has announced plans to invest $100 million to fight this debilitating mental health disease.
According to USA Today, Gates revealed in mid November that he recently invested $50 million into the Dementia Discovery Fund and will invest an additional $50 million in various start-ups specializing in Alzheimer’s research.
“It’s a miracle that people are living so much longer, but longer life expectancies alone are not enough,” Gates wrote in a blog post. “People should be able to enjoy their later years—and we need a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s to fulfill that.”
Despite the fact that Americans are living much longer and 20% of the entire population is expected to be over the age of 65 within the next 15 years, one-third of those individuals will likely die as a result of Alzheimer’s and related complications. Since there is no known cure or reliable prevention method associated with these mental illnesses, any significant donation will help push research along. Gates’ $100 million donation will surely do just that — but it’s still an uphill battle.
Across the globe, donations of all kinds provide assistance to individuals and families who are struggling. More than 14.3 million tons of American textiles, for instance, have been donated to families all over the world. Debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s, though extremely prevalent in America, affect millions in much poorer countries as well. Gates and other researchers are hoping to provide some assistance to not just American patients, but people all over the world.
“I’m making this investment on my own, not through the foundation,” Gates added. “The first Alzheimer’s treatments might not come to fruition for another decade or more, and they will be very expensive at first. Once that day comes, our foundation might look at how we can expand access in poor countries.”
Gates pointed out a few specific areas where he hopes his $100 million can help, including coordinating and analyzing all the data being collected on patients across the world, better understanding new areas of research, and more innovative drug treatment trials.
“By improving in each of these areas, I think we can develop an intervention that drastically reduces the impact of Alzheimer’s,” he added. “We’re already making progress — but we need to do more.”
Gates went on to add that the first installment of treatment might not be 100% feasible for a decade or more, along with being quite expensive at first. In the near future, however, he stated that the Gates Foundation could expedite the research and process by donating more and providing more assistance.
“I’m excited to join the fight and can’t wait to see what happens next,” he said.