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Bill Gates (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Bill Gates has invested billions of his personal wealth to fight polio, malaria and other devastating diseases in the emerging world.

Now, the Microsoft co-founder is turning his attention to Alzheimer’s, calling it a “terrible disease” that’s like “a gradual death in terms of the person that you knew.”

Gates today announced that he’s committing $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund— a fund that brings together non-profits, governments and private industry to identify treatments for dementia, a disease that impacts 47 million people worldwide. Gates also said he plans to invest $50 million in emerging startups that are working on unique treatments, hoping to take a data-driven approach to discover how the disease progresses in its early forms.

Through advanced study of the brain, Gates said he’s hopeful for a treatment that drastically reduces Alzheimer’s. And while excited by some new research into the disease, the software billionaire said “we need to do more.”

Gates writes about his own personal experience dealing with loved ones who’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, noting that the human cost “is much more difficult to put into numbers.” He writes on Gates Notes:

It’s a terrible disease that devastates both those who have it and their loved ones. This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s. 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.

My family history isn’t the sole reason behind my interest in Alzheimer’s. But my personal experience has exposed me to how hopeless it feels when you or a loved one gets the disease. We’ve seen scientific innovation turn once-guaranteed killers like HIV into chronic illnesses that can be held in check with medication. I believe we can do the same (or better) with Alzheimer’s.

Here’s more from Gates talking about his pledge to fight Alzheimer’s.

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