Alzheimer’s, Bill Gates, and the Search for a Cure

Our Thoughts on the Outstanding Write Up by Bill Gates

  We recently read an outstanding article by Bill Gates that explored the difficulties and challenges we face as researchers, trying to find enough volunteers for Alzheimers studies. Bill Gates has been a staunch ally in the fight against Alzheimers and has contributed considerable time and money, working with various researchers and organizations.       Talking about some of the roadblocks that researchers face, Gates pointed to the long timelines clinical studies tend to face:  

We dont have the scientific tools we need to stop Alzheimers. There hasnt been a new drug for it approved in more than 15 years.

    He then went on to elaborate on one of the reasons for this:  

Thats in part because its so hard to run clinical trials for this disease; the average clinical study for Alzheimers takes 4 to 8 years, versus just 1.5 years for a typical study of cardiovascular disease, and is also much more expensive to run.

    This is something Ayesha and I have become acutely aware of over the years weve spent researching Alzheimers and treating patients across our clinics. Bill Gates also touched on another reason that progress in halting this terrible disease has been so painfully slow:  

Theres still no cheap, effective way to diagnose the disease.

    According to Gates and the researchers hes worked with, there are three areas we need to focus on in order to address these impediments:  
  • Increasing awareness among patients
  • Developing better diagnostics
  • Raising awareness of clinical trials, plus encouraging patients and doctors to be more open toward participating
    As Neurologists and founders of our non-profit, Healthy Minds Initiative – we couldnt agree more.

Alzheimer’s Prevention

    This is why our message of prevention is so important. Alzheimers has been a uniquely challenging and destructive disease. The deepest pockets and brightest minds have struggled to make significant progress in halting the disease – and not for lack of trying. There are some incredibly brilliant developments and approaches toward combating the disease once it has already taken hold – like the work of Rudy Tanzi who is doing ground breaking genetics research at Harvard (Mass. General), and Dr. Ronald Petersen of the Mayo Clinic who is leading many innovative clinical drug trials.       In reviewing the research and conducting studies of our own, weve come to believe that the most effective way to fight Alzheimers is to work toward preventing it in the first place. We wrote a book, The Alzheimers Solution, where we focused on this point. We know that lifestyle, not genetics, is the largest indicator of risk when it comes to Alzheimers.  
Based on this premise, weve spent the last few years trying to understand how we can mitigate that risk in the name of prevention – and how we can encourage communities to adopt brain healthy behaviors that are conducive toward prevention as well.  
While focused on a broad range of cognitive diseases and disorders, Alzheimers is what drove us to create the Healthy Minds Initiative (HMI) in the first place. We have also identified many of the same problems Mr. Gates spoke about:  
  • A lack of tools and technology to support and expedite research
  • A lack of awareness and outreach
  • Difficulty in diagnosing Alzheimers early in order to identify potential candidates for research

Were taking steps to address these issues with Healthy Minds Initiative. Currently under construction, our web platform is to be a secure digital hub that brings researchers, patients, volunteers, and caregivers together in one place.  
Healthy Minds Initiative is built around an innovative and exclusive approach that starts at the community level – something we believe is essential to prevention. With a strong technical foundation and a focus on customized recommendations, automation, and enhanced data handling, we aim to be a new and different kind of non-profit.  
Well be talking about our plans more in the coming months, as we continue to raise funds and build on our vision.

United in The Fight Against Alzheimer’s

It is great to have someone like Mr. Gates powering the search for a cure and working alongside researchers as we explore every avenue available to us. We need people with his commitment and conviction in this fight and it is important that we attack Alzheimers from every angle, be it genetic, pharmacological, or lifestyle focused.  
We look forward to reading the findings of Mr. Gates and his team, were all in this together and a comprehensive approach will be the key to cracking this mystery.    

Author(s): Dean Sherzai MD, PhD (c), MPH, MAS