British venture the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF) has received a $50 million investment from Bill Gates, to help fuel progress toward disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.

The DDF, managed by SV Health, was launched in October 2015 to drive the development and discovery of novel therapies for dementia, formed through a collaboration of seven pharmaceutical companies - Biogen, Eli Lilly and Company, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Otsuka (Astex) - the UK’s Department of Health and the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Since its launch the DDF has built an initial portfolio of 12 investments in drug discovery companies and projects predominantly in the UK and US in areas including microglial biology and inflammation, mitochondrial dynamics, trafficking and membrane biology and synaptic physiology and function.

“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,” said Kate Bingham, Managing Partner of SV. “We welcome Bill Gates’ involvement as we collaborate to solve one of the biggest issues in global healthcare.”

“This is a frontier where we can dramatically improve human life,” said Gates. “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.”

“Dementia is one of the biggest challenges of global healthcare today and it’s a challenge that isn’t going to be solved by working in silos,” added Patrick Vallance, president of R&D at GSK.  “To address the growing burden of dementia, we must collaborate and invest in the early science to really enhance our understanding of the disease and its complex biology, and then apply this knowledge in a way that is targeted towards making treatments.”

Around 44 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, but this figure is expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050, placing a huge and unprecedented strain on global healthcare systems if better treatments are not discovered.