Radical Life Extension is getting more mainstream and is getting more funding
Joon Yun launched a $1 million prize challenging scientists to “hack the code of life” and push human lifespan past its apparent maximum of about 120 years (the longest known/confirmed lifespan was 122 years). The Palo Alto Longevity prizes are described below and in the original article.
A $500,000 Homeostatic Capacity Prize will be awarded to the first team to demonstrate that it can restore homeostatic capacity (using heart rate variability as the surrogate measure) of an aging reference mammal to that of a young adult.
A $500,000 Longevity Demonstration Prize will be awarded to the first team that can extend the lifespan of its reference mammal by 50% of acceptable published norms. Demonstration must use an approach that restores homeostatic capacity to increase lifespan.
In addition to the $1 million cash prize, the Palo Alto Prize is also working with a number of angel investors, venture capital firms, corporate venture arms, institutions and private foundations to provide access to additional capital to the teams during the competition. While the Palo Alto Prize will help facilitate introductions, all transactions and due diligence will be done privately between the teams and potential investors and philanthropists.
15 scientific teams have so far entered the Palo Alto Longevity Prize which will be awarded in the first instance for restoring vitality and extending lifespan in mice by 50%. But Yun has deep pockets and expects to put up more money for progressively greater feats.
In September 2013 Google announced the creation of Calico, short for the California Life Company. Its mission is to reverse engineer the biology that controls lifespan and “devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives”.
Though much mystery surrounds the new biotech company, it seems to be looking in part to develop age-defying drugs. In April 2014 it recruited Cynthia Kenyon, a scientist acclaimed for work that included genetically engineering roundworms to live up to six times longer than normal, and who has spoken of dreaming of applying her discoveries to people
In March 2014, pioneering American biologist and technologist Craig Venter – along with the tech entrepreneur founder of the X Prize Foundation, Peter Diamandis – announced a new company called Human Longevity Inc. It isn’t aimed at developing anti-aging drugs or competing with Calico, says Venter.
But it plans to create a giant database of 1 million human genome sequences by 2020, including from supercentenarians. Venter says that data should shed important new light on what makes for a longer, healthier life, and expects others working on life extension to use his database. “Our approach can help Calico immensely and if their approach is at the middle of everything.”
Since 2009, Aubrey de Grey has been chief scientific officer at his own charity, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (Sens) Research Foundation. Including an annual contribution (about $600,000 a year) from Peter Thiel, a billionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and money from his own inheritance, he funds about $5 million of research annually.
Scientists have already successfully intervened in aging in a variety of animal species and researchers say there is reason to believe it could be achieved in people. “We have really turned a corner,” says Brian Kennedy, director of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, adding that five years ago the scientific consensus was that aging research was interesting but unlikely to lead to anything practical.
“We’re now at the point where it’s easy to extend the lifespan of a mouse. That’s not the question any more, it’s can we do this in humans? And I don’t see any reason why we can’t,” says David Sinclair, a researcher based at Harvard.