Bill Gates has pledged to invest $100 million (£76 million) into research to find a breakthrough for Alzheimer's disease.
The billionaire, who is the richest person on the planet, announced yesterday he plans to make an initial $50 million (£38 million) investment into a venture capital fund, Dementia Discovery Fund, that finances new treatments for the degenerative condition.
This is due to be followed up by another $50 million investment in start-up ventures working in research on Alzheimer’s, which currently has no cure.
The Microsoft co-founder said he was partly moved to make the huge investment by his personal experience of the disease that has affected men in his family.
In a blog post, he wrote: “I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity, and there is nothing you can do about it. It feels a lot like you’re experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew.”
However he added he was also motivated by the fact Alzheimer's is the only disease in the top ten causes of death in his native US that doesn't have a meaningful treatment.
Without a breakthough treatment, Mr Gates warned the condition would put an increasing strain on healthcare systems around the world as populations aged.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for over 60 per cent of diagnoses.
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According to the Alzheimer’s Society, more than 46 million people are estimated to be currently living with dementia worldwide and that figure is expected to increase to over a 100 million by 2050.
In the UK, 850,000 people are living with dementia and the condition affects one in six people over 80. A 2014 study by the charity found the total cost of dementia to the UK was more than £26 billion a year, with around £4 billion falling on the NHS and more than £10 billion on the social care system.
In his blog post Mr Gates, 62, said he was confident a breakthrough in treating the disease could be found if progress was made in five key areas, including developing better early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and funding more diverse approaches to treating patients.
He said: “By improving in each of these areas, I think we can develop an intervention that drastically reduces the impact of Alzheimer’s.
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“There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about our chances: our understanding of the brain and the disease is advancing a great deal. We’re already making progress—but we need to do more.”
Mr Gates said the money he was investing would be coming from him personally rather than from his philanthropic organisation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The foundation could play a future role in the fight against Alzheimer's disease by helping to fund any breakthrough treatments for poorer countries, he added.
According to the Forbes World Billionaires List, Mr Gates has been the richest person in the world for 18 of the last 23 years and has an estimated fortune of £65 billion.
Bill gates - full transcript
In 2014 he stepped down as chairman of Microsoft, which he co-founded with Paul Allen in 1975, but remains on its board and still owns around 2 per cent of the company.
In recent years, he has increasingly dedicated his time to the efforts of his foundation, which is the largest private charity in the world, and has spearheaded the fight against diseases such as polio and malaria.