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Health

Bill Gates Invests $30M for Affordable Early Alzheimer's Test


Why Global Citizens Should Care:
Alzheimer’s affects nearly 50 million people worldwide. Efforts to identify and treat this disease are key to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 on good health and well-being for all. Take action here.

Billionaire Bill Gates is doubling down on his commitment to Alzheimer’s research.

The Microsoft founder and philanthropist, along with Estée Lauder Companies Inc. chairman emeritus Leonard Lauder, announced this week that they would invest $30 million over three years toward the development of new tests for early Alzheimer’s detection, reports Reuters.

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“The process of getting diagnosed with Alzheimer’s today is less than ideal,” Gates wrote in a post to his personal blog, Gates Notes, explaining the current limitations of Alzheimer’s testing.

“It starts with a cognitive test. If you don’t perform well, your doctor needs to rule out all other possible causes for memory loss, like stroke or a nutritional deficiency. Then your doctor can order a spinal tap or PET scan to confirm you have Alzheimer’s. Although these tests are fairly accurate, the only way to diagnose the disease definitively is through an autopsy after death.”

But Gates believes that a better way to identify the disease in its early stages is possible, and so he’s decided to provide seed money for a Diagnostics Accelerator through the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), which was founded by Lauder.

“We need a better way of diagnosing Alzheimer's — like a simple blood test or eye exam — before we're able to slow the progression of the disease," Gates wrote in a statement, reports CNN. “Imagine a world where diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is as simple as getting your blood tested during your annual physical.”

News of the Diagnostics Accelerator project follows an announcement by Gates in November that he would commit $100 million toward Alzheimer’s disease research, noted TIME. At that time, he also revealed that the disease has touched him personally, as members of his family, including his father, have suffered from it.

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The Alzheimer's Association says the disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the US, according to the CNN report, killing more than breast and prostate cancer victims combined. Six million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer's and roughly 14 million individuals are expected to be affected by the brain disorder by 2050.

Those figures jump to nearly 50 million people worldwide and are expected to rise to more than 131 million by 2050, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International, reports Reuters.

All stand to benefit from an early diagnosis and potential new treatment therapies funded by Gates.