Alzheimer’s ‘Moonshot’ Initiative Launches With Bill Gates, ADDF Backing 

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A new global effort is underway to accelerate the prevention, diagnosis and management of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. 

The effort, dubbed the Alzheimer’s Moonshot, was announced by StartUp Health in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation’s Diagnostics accelerator and Gates Ventures, the private office of entrepreneur Bill Gates.

The Alzheimer’s effort is among a new series of “moonshots” from StartUp Health. The efforts also have taken aim at other health challenges, such as Type 1 diabetes, with the goal of bringing together like-minded company founders and researchers in those spaces.

“Powering” the Alzheimer’s initiative is StartUp Health’s Health Transformer University, StartUp Health’s long-term program designed to accelerate health startups and novel technology solutions through early stages of growth from R&D through commercial scale.

Initial funding for the launch comes from Gates Ventures and DxA, a $100 million research effort meant to speed up the study of biomarkers and diagnostic tools in the healthcare industry, especially tools to aid in identifying Alzheimer’s disease. Previously, the ADDF has awarded over $270 million to fund over 730 Alzheimer’s drug development programs, biomarker programs and clinical trials in 19 countries.

The Alzheimer’s initiative will attempt to “break down silos and foster meaningful collaboration between mission-aligned founders, funders, and partners” in preventing, researching and treating Alzheimer’s disease through “entrepreneurial innovation.”

The effort is also a call for startups, researchers and funders to find “collaborative approaches to Alzheimer’s disease,” the foundation announced in a news release. Steven Krein, CEO and co-founder of StartUp Health said the goal of the Alzheimer’s Moonshot was to integrate the patchwork network of stakeholders involved in dementia research and care.


“We are spearheading a unified global innovation community that connects entrepreneurs, scientists, philanthropists, investors, and patients, all dedicated to Alzheimer’s and related brain conditions,” Krein said. “Working in partnership with the ADDF and Gates Ventures, and welcoming future innovators and funders to our mission, we aim to dramatically accelerate progress through unprecedented collaboration.”

Moonshot to select 20 teams

In the first year, the project will select 20 “innovative companies and research teams” with expertise in commercialization and scalability in health care to join the Health Moonshot Community.

The Alzheimer’s Moonshot includes a “scorecard” to measure the effort and help planners pick the teams involved.

According to StartUp Health, benefits for becoming a Moonshot “champion” include getting help advancing missions, brand promotion and mentoring. They also get access to a “meticulously-curated startup pipeline,” and founders and research teams invited into the Alzheimer’s Moonshot participate for free.

“StartUp Health will invite the most promising founders and researchers working on Alzheimer’s innovation into a collaborative ‘Health Moonshot Community,’” StartUp Health noted. “These individuals will receive professional coaching through Health Transformer University, invitations to targeted community events, massive marketing exposure, and the opportunity to network with a prestigious impact board of industry stakeholders.”

Dr. Phyllis Barkman Ferrell will serve as the chief impact officer of the initiative and lead its “Impact Board.” Ferrell brings more than three decades of health care experience to the effort, having served as the global head of Alzheimer’s and neurodegeneration at Eli Lilly and an advisor at the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative.

The board also will have representatives from ADDF and Gates Ventures along with “a diverse group of stakeholders from industry, clinical medicine, academia, investment, and patient and caregiver communities.”

Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer Howard Flint said there was an “urgent need” to find new treatments and find ways to stop the disease’s progression.

“The ADDF welcomes the opportunity to partner with StartUp Health to launch the Alzheimer’s Moonshot as it is uniquely positioned to bring mission-aligned founders together to collaborate and innovate, accelerating much-needed breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s research,” Flint said in the announcement news release.

Unity Stoakes, co-founder and president of StartUp Health said that by collaborating, involved parties driven by purpose can “produce wonders.”

“Humans have already been to the moon and back; now let’s band together to supercharge this new era of progress for brain health and finally eradicate Alzheimer’s for good,” Stoakes said.

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