Billionaire philanthropist and Global Citizen Bill Gates is adding yet another complex global problem to his to-do list.

This time, Gates is investing $50 million into the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF), a partnership between charity, government, and industry that supports innovative research on one of the world’s most common neurocognitive diseases.

Gates said that his investment in DDF will be mirrored by another $50 million donated to startups working in dementia research.

Typically, Gates has invested his money into research efforts aimed at eradicating communicable and infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.

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However, Gates commented that dementia cannot be ignored as a massive medical problem that affects millions around the world.

"It's a huge problem, a growing problem, and the scale of the tragedy — even for the people who stay alive — is very high," Gates said in an interview with Reuters.

Dementia is a neurocognitive disease estimated to affect 47 million people around the world. It comes in many forms, all of which are characterized by decline in cognitive functioning severe enough to hamper daily activities. Its most common form is alzheimer's, a disease to which there is currently no cure and only a handful of treatments that can limit the severity of symptoms.

Alzheimer’s Disease International, a nonprofit advocacy group, estimates that someone develops dementia every 3 seconds around the world, and that the disease will cost about $1 billion per year by 2018.

Recent statistics released by the group indicate that the number of cases around the world is expected to rise significantly over the next 30 years as life-expectancy increases. The group also predicts that the majority of increased cases will occur in low- and middle-income countries. Currently, almost 60% of all dementia cases occur in lower-income countries, but that number is expected to rise 10% by 2050.

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Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Achieving goal number 3, good health and well being, means supporting research initiatives that can improve health outcomes for everyone around the world. You can take action on this issue here.

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Symptoms of dementia, including memory loss, spatial disorientation, and a general decline in cognitive abilities can have devastating effects on people living in areas with little-to-no access to medical attention.

Furthermore, research indicates that those living in poverty often experience higher rates of the disease due to lack of access to healthy foods, space, and time for exercise, as well as other stress-related factors associated with the instability of economic disadvantage.

"Any type of treatment would be a huge advance from where we are today, but the long-term goal has got to be cure," Gates told Dr. Sanjay Gupta in a CNN interview. "I believe there is a solution.”

Disclosure: Bill Gates is the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a funding partner of Global Citizen.

Editor's note: This piece has been updated to include a disclosure that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a funding partner of Global Citizen. We regret the oversight.


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