Business, Philanthropy, and Genetics – Dementia Discovery Fund

Student writer: Trenton Beckendorff
Student editors: Rita ChakrabartiBelicia Tan
23andMe editor: Sarah LaskeyThao Do

The Headline

  • Founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, announced his intent to invest $50 million of his personal funds into the Dementia Discovery Fund.
  • In 2017, venture capital investments in genetics and biotechnology are at an all-time high.

The Dementia Discovery Fund

Dementia results from the degeneration of nerve cells in the parts of an individual’s brain that are necessary for cognitive functions such as language, memory, and problem-solving [1].

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that occurs when nerve cells related to movement and other key bodily functions are affected. Symptoms can range from difficulty retaining newly acquired information to difficulties swallowing and walking in later stages of the disease [1]. Alzheimer’s is one of the top ten contributing causes of death in the United States [2]. Despite the prevalence of the disease, there are currently no treatments that can prevent or cure its onset. [1].

Across the globe, dementia affects over 47 million people and is estimated to cost the world economy $818 billion annually [2,3]. By 2050, the number of individuals with the disease is expected to rise to 131 million [2].

Founded in 2015, the Dementia Discovery Fund is an early-stage venture capital fund with the mission of investing in the development of new innovative approaches to treat patients with dementia [4,5]. The fund is managed by SV Life Sciences, which has successfully led the creation of and/or invested in more than 175 life science companies [4,5].

The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, recently announced his intent to invest $50 million into the Dementia Discovery Fund [6]. In addition, Gates plans to invest an additional $50 million into innovative startups pursuing unconventional approaches to combating the disease [6].

Record-Setting Venture Capital Funding

According to a recent market report by PitchBook, venture capital investments in startups in the genetics industry reached an all-time high in 2017 [7]. The report indicates that there were 68 such financing deals last year, with a total valuation of $1.5 billion [7].

Thought Question for Students

What challenges and opportunities in the field of genetics can entrepreneurs address to transform public health within the next decade?


  1. 2017 ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE FACTS AND FIGURES(Rep.). (2017). Retrieved
  2. Prince, M., Prof, Wimo, A., Prof, & Guerchet, M. (2015, October). World Alzheimer Report 2015(Rep.). Retrieved January 9, 2018, from Alzheimer’s Disease International website:
  3. Dementia Discovery Fund. (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2018, from
  4. Crunchbase: Dementia Discovery Fund. (n.d.). Retrieved January 09, 2018, from
  5. Crunchbase: SV Health Investors. (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2018 from
  6. Kelland, K. (2017, November 13). Bill Gates makes $100 million personal investment to fight Alzheimer’s(Rep.). Retrieved January 9, 2018, from Reuters website:
  7. Clark, K. (2017, November 13). 2017 is a record year for VC funding in biotech, genetics. Retrieved January 09, 2018, from
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