The philanthropic entrepreneur has invested £38.2m into the Dementia Discovery Fund, a London-based fund helping tackle dementia.
The investment is Gates’ first to accelerate progress toward disease modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.
The fund, which is managed by SV Health, is a unique venture fund focused entirely on discovering and developing novel therapies for dementia.
Since its launch in October 2015, the DDF has made significant progress building an initial portfolio of 12 investments in drug discovery companies and projects predominantly in the UK and the US.
DDF believes there is a significant opportunity to develop dementia drugs targeting biological pathways beyond the prevailing amyloid beta hypothesis and to apply insights from areas such as oncology and immunology to develop novel drugs targeting these other biological pathways that may drive different forms of dementia.
The DDF is uniquely positioned to benefit from the expertise of its world-class Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) which includes heads of Neuroscience and/or R&D from seven major pharma companies (Biogen, Eli Lilly and Company, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Otsuka (Astex), Pfizer and Takeda) and ARUK, who collectively have a large network and experience in neuroscience drug discovery.
The SAB provides ongoing advice and knowledge, offers insights on different approaches and historical failures, suggests priority areas to explore new approaches to treat dementia and advises on strategies to drugging these new pathways. With this increased investor demand the DDF team will grow, including the appointment of a chief executive to lead the organisation.
Gates said: “I believe we are at a turning point in Alzheimer’s research and development, which the Dementia Discovery Fund is playing an important role in by exploring new approaches to treat the disease. This is a frontier where we can dramatically improve human life.
“It’s a miracle that people are living so much longer, but longer life expectancies alone are not enough. People should be able to enjoy their later years – and we need a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s to fulfil that. I’m excited to join the fight and can’t wait to see what happens next.”
Kate Bingham, managing partner of SV, added: “Our ambition at launch was to identify and deliver new drug approaches for tackling dementia. Two years on, the DDF has made significant strides towards achieving that, attracting global investment and some of the most impressive teams, companies and entrepreneurs working in neurodegeneration research.
“In the first example of its kind in dementia, the DDF has now brought together funding from the private sector, charity and industry, and we’re especially pleased to get so much interest from the US in a British fund.
“We welcome Bill Gates’ involvement as we collaborate to solve one of the biggest issues in global healthcare. We look forward to the growing deal flow and next stages of development in the companies that the fund supports.”
Secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt, said: “Tackling dementia is one of my top priorities as Health Secretary, and I want the UK to become the best country in the world for care, support, research and awareness.
“I am extremely proud that Britain is at the forefront of innovative international collaborations like the Dementia Discovery Fund – this substantial investment could help us to change the lives of millions of people.”