AUSTIN (CNN) — Philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is taking on a new challenge: dementia research. The billionaire is investing $50 million.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and affects more than five million Americans right now, which could reach 16 million Americans by 2050. It’s the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
“We don’t really have anything that stops Alzheimer’s,” Gates said. “And so the growing burden is pretty unbelievable.”
In a normal brain, cells send messages through neural pathways, and chemicals called neurotransmitters travel across synapses to spread that information. With Alzheimer’s, those pathways become blocked and can affect memory, personality and basic functions.
Gates said members of his family have had the disease, and he knows how tough it is.
In the past, Gates has donated money toward infectious disease research and treatment, but this is the first time he’s investing in better understanding a non-communicable disease. The money will go to the Dementia Discovery Fund, which is a public-private collaboration.
“Any type of treatment would be a huge advance from where we are today,” Gates said. “So, yes, I believe there is a solution.”