Bill Gates has certainly made himself known within the Alzheimer’s community. In the past, he has expressed his concerns following his father’s diagnosis. By the time his father was 92 years old, he was, as Gates described, “deeply affected.” This made Gates worry about his own neurological health.
After experiencing Alzheimer’s disease firsthand, the 62-year-old founder of Microsoft has funded research and remained vocal on his position. In fact, Gates donated $100 million to Alzheimer’s research after his father was diagnosed. His goal is to fund unconventional research, focusing on new ideas.
Although researchers have not yet found a cure, Gates believes there is an opportunity to help those afraid of this disease. He stated that the population currently needs a diagnostic test that is “affordable, accessible, and reliable”.
An Introduction to the “Diagnostics Accelerator” Initiative
This week, Gates announced that he will join a group of philanthropists who are investing $30 million into a fund known as the Diagnostics Accelerator. This initiative is a venture funding project which aims to develop new tools to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.
The ultimate goal is to develop bold ideas that make the diagnostic process easier and more accurate. Founded by Bill Gates and Leonard Lauder, the team also includes a group of other philanthropists, including the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation.
Over the next three years, $30 million will be provided to researchers who are working on innovative and promising concepts and ideas. If Alzheimer’s disease can be diagnosed early, before the most devastating symptoms occur, then there is hope for more effective treatment options.
They hope that one day soon, diagnosing Alzheimer’s will be as simple as completing a blood test or an eye exam. One of the core goals of Diagnostics Accelerator is supporting the development of drugs that target areas such as epigenetics and inflammation. Their efforts support the biomarker specific model of precision medicine.
Since Alzheimer’s appears to have many different causes, researchers need to develop different tests which lead to different treatments. Currently, Alzheimer’s is diagnosed when symptoms surface. However, effective tests are required before warning signs develop, up to 20 years prior.
You may read the full press release here.
How the Diagnostic Process Impacts Research
An earlier Alzheimer’s diagnosis provides patients with more options with regards to treatment. That is why we have developed BrainTest®, an assessment tool that can help you detect the possible early warning signs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, today.
Our goal is to help the public intervene as early as possible. That way, patients have more options in terms of treatment and are also able to plan more effectively for the future. Although a critical step in regards to one’s prognosis, the diagnostic process not only impacts treatment — it also influences research.
Being able to accurately identify which patients have Alzheimer’s is imperative to clinical trials. Currently, it is challenging to find eligible candidates. In many cases, it is taking researchers longer to enroll participants than it takes them to conduct the study. This adversely affects ongoing research as scientists work toward a cure.
The Early Biomarkers of Alzheimer’s
Today, in order to diagnose Alzheimer’s, physicians rely on the documentation of mental decline. By this point, the disease has already caused severe damage. Biomarkers or “biological markers” offer one of the most promising paths — which is the core focus of the Diagnostic Accelerator.
An example of an accurate and reliable biomarker is one’s fasting blood glucose level in relation to diabetes. For Alzheimer’s, some of the potential biomarkers include amyloid beta and tau levels in the cerebrospinal fluid. Neuroimaging can also detect brain changes.
The Alzheimer’s Association highlights some of the current areas of interest in their article, Earlier Diagnosis. From genetic risk profiling to neuroimaging, they summarize the importance of early intervention.
We will continue to follow Gates’ initiatives, as well as the progress made.
For more information on current tests and the importance of early intervention, please read: