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Success at the XPRIZE Foundation – Article by Keith Comito

Success at the XPRIZE Foundation – Article by Keith Comito

Keith Comito


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by Keith Comito of the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), originally published on the LEAF site on May 20th, 2019.  The article brings attention to a new project from XPRIZE, focusing on Human Longevity, which the U.S. Transhumanist Party supports as part of our policy goals.

~ Brent Reitze, Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party, August 4, 2019


On April 29th and 30th, the XPRIZE Foundation hosted an event at its headquarters in Culver City, California that could have a profound effect on the evolving landscape of biorejuvenation research: the Future of Longevity Impact Roadmap Lab.

For those unfamiliar, the XPRIZE Foundation is famous for designing multi-million-dollar, global competitions to incentivize the development of technological breakthroughs, perhaps the most well-known being its first: the Ansari XPRIZE, which offered a $10,000,000 award for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks.

With this event, the purpose of which was to gather subject matter experts to brainstorm a potential longevity-research prize, XPRIZE has turned its focus towards solving the critical problem of age-related diseases on society and extending healthy human lifespan for all. As I was fortunate enough to directly participate in this exciting meeting, I’d like to share some of my experiences with you all.

The Room Where It Happens

The first thing I noticed upon entering the XPRIZE headquarters was how impressive it is, both in terms of size and in its almost museum-like quality of showcasing innovations in which the foundation has had a hand over the past few decades — statues, trophies, a large rocketship model hanging from the ceiling. Simply put, it is a facility designed to make you think “big things happen here”, and the significance of the fact that attendees such as myself were gathered here to “discover innovative and accessible ways to radically extend everyone’s healthy lifespan” was not lost on me. The times are changing, and changing fast — the tide is turning.

The second thing I noticed was just how diverse the group of attendees was, a veritable who’s who of the broader pro-longevity movement: researchers such as Drs. Steve Horvath and Greg Fahy, investors such as Sergey Young (board member of XPRIZE and creator of the $100m Longevity Vision Fund), long-time advocates such as myself, Aubrey de Grey, and Jim Strole, global policy makers, journalists, cryonicists such as Max More, transhumanists such as Zoltan Istvan and Natasha Vita-More, and of course XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis.

I confess that I was not initially sure how this eclectic group would gel together in the brainstorming sessions to follow, but what was clear to me was that this could be the beginning of a watershed moment for overcoming the diseases of aging. This is the kind of room where it happens.

The Task at Hand

After the stage-setting opening talk by noted futurist Ray Kurzweil, the proceedings quickly shifted to the stated purpose of the gathering: brainstorming the most impactful and audacious ideas to overcome the negative aspects of aging and age-related disease on society.

To facilitate this, the attendees, numbering approximately 70, were divided into tables of four or five — each person tasked with generating a preliminary idea for a longevity-focused XPRIZE and further charged with convincing the rest of their table that their proposed idea should be the one put forth by their table to the rest of the group for consideration. My table happened to include Aubrey de Grey, and thus I knew that a lively discussion was all but assured.

Before beginning to debate the design of an ideal contest, however, it is necessary to understand what qualities and parameters typically make for an effective XPRIZE, and, as such, we were presented with some examples of these — having clearly verifiable goals, the ability to catalyze new markets by targeting specific industry failures, projecting a telegenic vision of hope that the public can rally behind, etc.

The entire group of attendees was also engaged to discuss how the realities of healthy life extension might relate to these various parameters, and, in this exercise, I am glad to note how instrumental the analytical work done by our outreach and writing departments at LEAF was in providing actionable information to the group. One example: when the XPRIZE team asked how the concept of gender inclusivity might relate to an ideal longevity-focused prize, the work of our team allowed me to quickly relay relevant statistics such as how a high percentage of family healthcare decisions are made by women, polling data on the desirability of life extension for both men and women, and how disparities in perception of increased longevity alter depending on how the topic is framed.

When it came time to begin brainstorming, many interesting ideas were discussed at our particular table, including the development of composite biomarkers to validate therapies targeting the aging process, and ways in which blockchain technologies could be used to accelerate drug discovery.

The idea I personally put forth was a conceptually simple one: meaningful physiological remediation of dementia (not just proxy diagnostics or biomarkers) by 2030. I thought this was well suited to the the XPRIZE qualities of “bold, but feasible” and “define the problem, not the solution”, and it has several other  factors in its favor, namely that dementia is by far the most damaging aspect of aging in terms of protracted emotional suffering and large-scale socioeconomic effects, it is the one aspect of aging that everyone already unequivocally believes is horrific and needs solving, the existing system has failed to solve it for decades, many promising therapy angles have no traditional profit motive and thus will not come to market without additional incentive, success would be clear to validate, and curing it would create an amazing and hopeful narrative with which to enlist the entire world in overcoming all of the diseases of aging.

Aubrey apparently agreed, and with his vote of confidence, this idea became one of the prize concepts pitched to the entire group for consideration. Ideas arising from the other tables’ groups covered a wide range of topics as well, included growing fully functional organs from stem cells, demonstrating the arrest of epigenetic markers of aging, successful brain transplantation, creation of an ageless mouse, and restoration of homeostatic and damage repair mechanisms in the elderly. After the completion of these presentations, it was time for lunch, with the expectation that upon their return, each attendee would join the table of whichever idea they believed in the most and help to refine it.

It was at this time that I became most uncertain of the future of my own pitched concept, as just prior to the break, one of the organizers mentioned that XPRIZE was already planning an Alzheimer’s-focused contest, and several attendees mentioned during lunch that they had planned to join our table but now supposed that it was better to support a different project instead. Sure enough, when lunch was completed, my table had become empty, but as the contest idea that I was advocating was actually quite different and larger in scope than the mentioned existing initiative, I chose to continue refining it during the ensuing session.

The final activity for the first day was for the team leaders of the newly reorganized tables to present their refined concepts on a poster shown to the entire group of attendees, who would then place stickers to vote for the concepts that they felt most worthy of actually becoming an XPRIZE. There were 18 concepts in total, all interesting, but one that I felt was noteworthy for its difference from the rest was a $5 million “Longevity Peace Prize” for whoever could convince a national government to declare aging to be a disease. This bears similarity to one of the concepts I sent to XPRIZE ahead of the event — to award $10 million to whoever could convince a national government to allocate $10 billion to aging research (a 1000x impact return and in line with other initiatives, such as the Human Genome Project and the Brain Initiative) — and one that I believe is important to have in the running in order to remind the attendees that some of the most impactful initiatives that we could choose may actually not be directly related to research.

When it came time for the actual voting, I confess that my expectations were not high for my own pitched concept, given what had transpired earlier. Thus, I was honestly shocked when it emerged as one of the top three choices along with the arresting of epigenetic markers concept mentioned above and one from Aubrey focusing on limited, but specifically measured, human rejuvenation by 2032.

As some of you reading this may know, the terrors of dementia have had a profound impact on my own family – a story that is now becoming all too common – and it would be a lie to state that seeing the support for eradicating this affliction at an event such as this did not challenge my emotional composure.

Audacity and the Time for Impact

On the second and final day of the event, I happened to meet Aubrey on the road to the venue, as it turned out that both of us preferred to walk from our hotels a few miles away. It was a nice day, and this was a welcome pleasure before returning to meet the rest of the attendees.

Once gathered again at the XPRIZE headquarters, the focus of the group became much narrower than it was on the previous day, as we were tasked to assess the top five highly voted projects from earlier on very specific criteria: How audacious is the concept? How impactful will its success and/or attempts at success be towards achieving the ultimate goal? In what timeframe can we reasonably expect a proof-of-concept? In what timeframe can we reasonably expect wide-scale adoption?

In terms of an ideal XPRIZE contest, the sought-after configuration was maximal impact and audacity, a proof-of-concept expected date achievable within 10 or 15 years, and with the shortest possible time period between proof-of-concept and widespread adoption.

The assigning of these metrics for each proposal involved a discussion among the entire group on each point, and it is interesting to note that, despite the wide diversity of backgrounds represented in the room, there was generally strong consensus on how each concept was ranked in all cases.

When all was said and done, two concepts stood firmly in the upper-right quadrant of the charts that we had collectively made, which denoted “XPRIZE Territory”. These were the aforementioned proposals put forth by Aubrey and myself: limited but specifically measured human rejuvenation by 2032 and meaningful physiological remediation of dementia by 2030.

It was at this time that my emotional composure circuits may have suffered a minor systems failure, but I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.

Now the Turning of the Tide

Of course, with the current exercise completed and the attendees now back to their respective homes and workplaces, it remains to be seen just how the outcome will inform the immediate plans of the XPRIZE Foundation.

Regardless of how quickly a longevity-focused XPRIZE contest is launched, my personal assessment is that this event was an extremely positive one — another clear marker that for whatever battles lie ahead of us to overcome the diseases of aging, some critical battles have already been won. Public perception in terms of the feasibility and desirability of positively affecting the aging processes is profoundly changing, and fast. Influential stakeholders and organizations such as XPRIZE are seeing that the time is now to drive forward a future in which diseases such as Alzheimer’s are just a memory. That is partly because of you, and especially those of you who have been fighting for many years for this cause — take a moment to feel that. Ten years ago, this would not have happened.

Finally, I would like to say that it was a truly humbling and exciting experience to participate in this event, working with a dynamic group of experts to come up with the most impactful and audacious ideas for overcoming the negative aspects of aging on society. Thank you to all who attended and organized; I look forward to meeting again.

Keith Comito is President of LEAF / Lifespan.io and a long-time advocate of longevity research. He is also a computer programmer, mathematician, musician, lover of life, and perhaps a man with too many hobbies. He earned a B.S. in Mathematics, B.S. in Computer science, and M.S. in Applied Mathematics at Hofstra University, where his work included analysis of the LMNA protein.

Moving Closer to a Vaccine for Atherosclerosis – Article by Steve Hill

Moving Closer to a Vaccine for Atherosclerosis – Article by Steve Hill

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by our guest Steve Hill, originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) on April 13, 2018. In this article, Mr. Hill reviews a study published by the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, in which the study authors successfully vaccinated atherosclerotic mice. In fact, this method supported Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s early insight – his claim that we must attack plaque altogether.

~ Bobby Ridge, Assistant Editor, July 5, 2019

Scientists could be one step closer to a solution to atherosclerosis by preventing the buildup of plaques that clog the arteries and lead to strokes and heart attacks.

What is atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is the accumulation of cholesterol-containing plaques in the walls of arteries; this causes them to narrow, leading to reduced blood flow, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. Atherosclerosis is the number one cause of death globally, and, by far, the highest risk factor for this disease is aging, although there are lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, smoking, obesity, and being sedentary.

Drugs such as statins attempt to manage the symptoms but are not truly effective in combating this disease, as they do not address the underlying cause: the formation of the sticky plaques that clog the arteries. Scientists such as Dr. Aubrey de Grey from the SENS Research Foundation have long been advocating for therapies that remove or prevent the formation of plaques altogether, as this would address the problem directly.

One step closer to a solution

In the journal Circulation, researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology have published a new study that supports the possibility that there are ways to prevent the formation of plaques in the first place [1]. The team has reported the successful vaccination of atherosclerotic model mice by using a small piece of protein cut from “bad cholesterol”, which facilitates the formation of plaques.

The vaccine was shown to reduce plaque in the mice, and the team also identified the T cells most likely responsible for positive outcomes in human blood samples as part of the same study. The researchers suggest that this technique could form the basis of a vaccine for people.

The vaccine works by boosting the activity and numbers of a type of T cell responsible for reducing inflammation, which leads to a reduction of plaque formation. We have talked about therapies that modulate the immune system and change the ratio of immune cells multiple times, and it is looking like an increasingly promising avenue of research.

“Bad cholesterol” is an amalgam of cholesterol, which is a lipid, and its carrier, low-density lipoprotein (LDL). In order to create the vaccine, the team engineered a peptide that represents a short section of LDL.

The team mounted this peptide on a scaffold called a tetramer and exposed it to immune cells to see which ones became activated in its presence. They tested human blood from two groups of women, one with plaques and one without, to see which immune cells responded to the presence of the peptide.

They observed that a type of regulatory T cell (Tregs) was activated in both groups, although the numbers of Tregs was much lower in subjects with plaques than subjects without, as were the presence of other types of T cells. This suggests that the function of Tregs is somehow hampered by the inflammation that atherosclerosis causes.

The next generation of vaccines that offer greater utility

As well as having the potential to address atherosclerosis, this research spotlights the utility of next-generation vaccines. The immunogenic component of traditional vaccines is a cocktail of molecules harvested from dead or weakened pathogens, but this approach does not work against non-infectious diseases like cancer and atherosclerosis; these next-generation vaccines are much more specific, as they can regulate the immune response using just a single peptide. This means vaccines that target non-infectious diseases are now possible, and, as they are highly targeted, they should have fewer unwanted side effects.

The results presented in this paper show that an effective vaccine against atherosclerosis is now potentially possible. However, the researchers do caution that there is more research to be done before this vaccine can be translated to human use.

Conclusion

While statins simply try to treat the symptoms, a therapy that prevents the buildup of plaques in the first place would be a very welcome step in the battle against age-related diseases and the suffering they bring. If the therapy can be translated to people, it would make strokes and heart attacks practically a thing of the past, and that day cannot come soon enough.

Literature

[1] Kimura, T., Kobiyama, K., Winkels, H., Tse, K., Miller, J., Vassallo, M., … & Jenkins, M. K. (2018). Regulatory CD4+ T Cells Recognize MHC-II-Restricted Peptide Epitopes of Apolipoprotein B. Circulation, CIRCULATIONAHA-117.

Steve Hill serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor-in-Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 500 articles on the topic as well as attending various medical industry conferences. In 2019 he was listed in the top 100 journalists covering biomedicine and longevity research in the industry report – Top-100 Journalists covering advanced biomedicine and longevity created by the Aging Analytics Agency. His work has been featured in H+ Magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Keep Me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project. In 2015 he led the Major Mouse Testing Program (MMTP) for the International Longevity Alliance and in 2016 helped the team of the SENS Research Foundation to reach their goal for the OncoSENS campaign for cancer research.

Wealth, Power, and the Prospect of Reversing Aging – Article by Arin Vahanian

Wealth, Power, and the Prospect of Reversing Aging – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


I often ask myself, “Why do wealthy and/or influential people seem to support spending billions of dollars on weapons and exploring outer space, when, with their massive wealth and resources, they could help reduce human suffering and dramatically improve the quality of life for billions of people?”

And this question takes me back to a discussion I had last year with gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, during which he recounted to me a meeting he had with an ultra high-net-worth (UHNW) individual. The purpose of the meeting was to raise money for aging and life-extension research, and the UHNW individual refused to donate to SENS Research Foundation, or even to get involved, stating something to the effect of, “It won’t happen in my lifetime.”

That response perplexed me. Here we had a very successful and intelligent person, who, rather than help ensure his own children (as well as others’ children) could live a healthier and longer life, refused to do anything, for the simple reason that he did not believe we could make much progress on reversing aging in his lifetime.

While this is indeed a selfish way to look at things, it is by no means uncommon. In fact, I have been racking my brain recently, trying to figure out why the people who are best-equipped to do something about life extension and aging, do not do so (or do not do enough).

To be fair, there are a few wealthy and influential people who support research into aging and life extension, the most notable being entrepreneur Jim Mellon. However, they seem to be the exception rather than the norm.

Indeed, why do people like Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk, who possess incredible resources and influence, choose to spend money and time on attempting to colonize hostile, uninhabitable planets hundreds of millions of kilometers away, especially considering that they and their loved ones (if they are lucky to live long enough) will die of aging-related causes such as heart disease, dementia, and cancer?

While I cannot speak for the aforementioned people, I believe there are several reasons why people in a position of power or wealth refuse to do much about supporting research on aging.

The first reason is that aging and death have been considered inevitable. Indeed, even though we have been able to put a human being on the Moon, we have been unable to prevent a single human being from aging. Enormously wealthy and successful people tend to be quite pragmatic, and so I imagine that they would not want to fund an endeavor or be a part of something they believed had no chance of success. However, we have evidence that we are making progress on this front, or at the very least, that reversing aging and implementing life-extension technologies are worthy endeavors.

In fact, in 2005, MIT Technology Review organized a panel of world-renowned experts (including molecular biologists) and offered a $20,000 prize to anyone who could disprove the SENS research program and demonstrate that reversing aging is not worthy of consideration. However, none of the contestants were able to do so. On the other hand, there is no evidence that human life is sustainable on any other planets in our solar system (while human life is perfectly sustainable on Earth), and by most professional estimates, it would take incredible technological advancements and financial resources to even enable people to temporarily stay on a planet such as Mars. We should also consider the fact that there have been no studies performed on the massive changes that would occur to the human body as a result of living on another planet.

Thus, it actually appears more realistic to work on reversing aging than it would be to work on colonizing other planets. But even if we are not able to completely reverse aging, what if we were able to slow aging? Wouldn’t it be desirable to have an additional five to 10 years of healthy life? Any progress we could make on life extension would be worth it, given that it would directly add healthy years to a person’s life. One thing is for certain – doing nothing ensures that very little will change, and that humans will more than likely continue living this average lifespan of 79 or so years (with very modest improvements over time), with much of it in the later years being in sickness and poor health.

Another reason for the refusal to fund aging and life extension research may be a rather pessimistic one. It is entirely possible that billionaires and governments are hedging their bets in the event that climate change or some other scenario causes wide-scale suffering (the likes of which have never been seen before) and a potential destruction of the planet, along with the rapid extinction of the human species. If that were the case, and Earth was about to be destroyed, it would make sense to pour resources into colonizing other planets. However, I think the likelihood of something like this occurring, at least in the near future, is extremely slim. Further, we have much evidence to support the fact that the planet could sustain a larger population and that technological improvements, as well as renewable energy, and seasteading, can prevent such an apocalyptic scenario from occurring. In fact, despite the challenges we are facing in terms of sustainability, we are making good progress, and it seems unreasonable to me to give all of this up, throw in the towel, and chase a pipe dream of living on another planet (when the one we have now is perfectly suited to human life). Also, given that we have the technology to save our planet from being engulfed in chaos and destruction, but do not currently have the technology to live on other planets, wouldn’t it make sense to save Earth first, rather than attempting to embark upon costly journeys to other planets, especially journeys that have little guarantee of success?

Yet another reason may be that many people, including those in a position of power, have bought into the idea of an afterlife. However, if we are completely honest with ourselves, there is no evidence that an afterlife exists, whereas there is evidence that we are making progress with reversing aging, even if that progress is arriving at a pace that is slower than we would have liked. With that being said, I would never want to deny anyone the right to believe in whatever they want. The question is, however, whether it is beneficial to adopt a zero-sum attitude to this matter. The fact is, believing in an afterlife and contributing to aging and life-extension research are not mutually exclusive. One can have any religious beliefs one likes, and subscribe to the idea that there is an afterlife, while also contributing to the beauty of existence here on Earth.

Finally, working on a cause such as reversing aging appears to not be as exciting as the prospect of exploring Mars, which is why people would rather update their LinkedIn (or Tinder) profile with “Entrepreneur” or “Swashbuckling Adventurer” or “Arms Dealer”, even, rather than “Gerontologist”.  In all seriousness, though, I have always found the idea of exploring faraway lands, as well as other planets, to be exciting. But if human beings are excited about exploring the unknown, shouldn’t we also be interested in exploring a process as complex as aging, especially given that there is much we still do not know about it? Also, the implications of making advancements in this field are huge. This is because the un-sexy work that gerontologists are doing will lead to us living longer, healthier lives, and so this very important work should not be ignored. In fact, it is a massive waste of resources to try to colonize uninhabitable planets at the expense of ensuring good health and longevity, when all of humanity battles with disease and death. It would even be more noble to focus our efforts on eliminating poverty (something that the Chinese government, for instance, has dedicated its efforts to).

I do not wish to dissuade anyone from exploring outer space, but neither should we avoid doing what needs to be done on our planet. I only wish to ask whether spending billions on space exploration is the best use of resources at our disposal, considering that there is still much work to be done here on Earth.

As mentioned previously, it should not be a zero-sum game. In an ideal world, we could dedicate resources to both aging research and space exploration. However, when the budget for NASA is $21.5 billion and the budget for aging research at the National Institute on Aging is $40 million, one has to start asking questions. Actually, one could argue neither budget is large enough, especially given that the U.S. Department of Defense budget is $686 billion.

Why do we spend hundreds of billions of dollars on missiles and bombs to combat a highly-exaggerated threat, when there is the absolute certainty that billions of people will suffer and then die, many of them prematurely, due to aging-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and dementia?

What makes exploring outer space so much more important than ensuring that billions do not die prematurely from aging-related diseases? Will picking up and holding red dust on a hostile, uninhabitable planet be more fulfilling than holding one’s child or loved one in one’s arms?

What does it say about our society when we are content to allow friends and family members to perish in undignified ways, while we dream about stockpiling as many weapons as possible, reliving fictional fantasies inspired by comic books and movies, and ignoring challenges here on Earth?

These are questions we must ask ourselves, and, more importantly, must demand those in power to ask themselves. At the end of the day, if we as a society are comfortable with the tradeoffs and decide en masse that dealing weapons and exploring outer space are more important than working on curing disease, reversing aging, and ensuring that everyone on Earth lives a dignified life, then we can rest assured knowing that we gave this most important of topics much consideration.

However, given the facts, I do not think we have reached that point yet. We have, however, reached a point where there is promise that we are making progress in fighting aging, and it is irresponsible and reckless to ignore these gains while entertaining fantasies of living on other planets. It makes little sense to try to live in a dignified manner on a dangerous, inhospitable, isolated planet that is not suitable for human life, when we are having difficulty living in a dignified manner here on Planet Earth (a planet that is perfectly suited to human life). The solution is not to dream about moving to Mars while leaving the elderly and unhealthy here to die. The solution is also not to increase defense funding, when we already have more weapons than we know what to do with. The solution is to help our brothers and sisters here on Earth live longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives. And thus, this is a call to action for those of you who are in a position of power or wealth and who can dedicate resources to ensuring that your loved ones, and everyone else’s loved ones, can live better.

One thing I would like to ask UHNW individuals and politicians is, what will you do with the great wealth, status, and power you have accumulated? Will you play golf and remark that “it won’t happen in my lifetime”? Or will you actually do something to ensure that your children won’t be doomed to a short life, during which they will suffer from debilitating disease and eventually die?

Arin Vahanian is the Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party.

Dr. Aubrey de Grey Accelerates His Estimates – Article by Steve Hill

Dr. Aubrey de Grey Accelerates His Estimates – Article by Steve Hill

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: In this article, Mr. Steve Hill highlights a recent webinar where Dr. Aubrey de Grey, the Biogerontology Advisor of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, revised his projections for the arrival of rejuvenation treatments in a more optimistic direction. This article was originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, April 16, 2019


On January 28, 2019, we held a webinar with the SENS Research Foundation as part of a new ongoing series of research webinars. During the webinar, we asked Dr. Aubrey de Grey how close we might be to achieving robust mouse rejuvenation (RMR) and robust human rejuvenation, and his answer was somewhat surprising.

RMR is defined as reproducibly trebling the remaining lifespan of naturally long-lived (~3 years average lifespan) mice with therapies begun when they are already two years old.

Dr. de Grey now suggests that there is a 50/50 chance of achieving robust mouse rejuvenation within 3 years from now; recent interviews and conversation reveal that he’d adjusted this figure down from 5-6 years. He has also moved his estimation of this to arrive from around 20 years to 18 years for humans.

So, what is the basis for this advance in schedule? Dr. de Grey is more optimistic about how soon we might see these technologies arrive, as the level of crosstalk between damages appears to be higher than he originally anticipated a decade ago. This means that robust mouse and human rejuvenation may be easier than he previously believed.

We also asked Dr. de Grey which of the seven damages of aging was the most challenging to address. Originally, he thought solving cancer through OncoSENS methods was the biggest challenge in ending age-related diseases. However, intriguingly, he speaks about his enthusiasm for immunotherapy and how it may potentially solve the cancer issue and negate the need for Whole-body Interdiction of Lengthening of Telomeres (WILT), which was always considered a last-resort approach to shutting down cancer.

There are two main components of the WILT approach. The first is to delete telomerase-producing genes from as many cells as possible, as human cancers lengthen telomeres through one of two available pathways, and the second is to avoid the harmful consequences of our cells no longer having telomerase by periodically transplanting fresh stem cells, which have also had their telomerase-associated genes knocked out, to replace losses.

This approach has always been considered extreme, and Dr. de Grey has always acknowledged that this was the case. However, over a decade ago when Dr. de Grey and Michael Rae originally proposed this in the book Ending Aging, immunotherapy was simply not on the radar. Now, there are alternatives to WILT that show true potential and less need for radical solutions, and it is reassuring to see that Dr. de Grey is so enthusiastic about them.

He now suggests that MitoSENS is probably the most challenging to tackle of the seven types of damage in the SENS model of aging. This is no surprise given that DNA and mtDNA damage are highly complex issues to fix.

On that note, we asked Dr. Amutha Boominathan from the MitoSENS team which mitochondrial gene was their next target after they had successfully created nuclear copies of the ATP-6 and ATP-8 genes.

MitoSENS will be launching a new fundraising campaign on Lifespan.io later this year with the aim of raising funds to progress to more of the mitochondrial genes. This time, the aim will be to move the approach to an animal model and demonstrate how it could be used to correct mitochondrial defects.

Finally, if you are interested in getting involved directly with these webinars and joining the live audience, check out the Lifespan Heroes page.

About  Steve Hill

As a scientific writer and a devoted advocate of healthy longevity technologies, Steve has provided the community with multiple educational articles, interviews and podcasts, helping the general public to better understand aging and the means to modify its dynamics. His materials can be found at H+ Magazine, Longevity reporter, Psychology Today and Singularity Weblog. He is a co-author of the book “Aging Prevention for All” – a guide for the general public exploring evidence-based means to extend healthy life (in press).

About LIFE EXTENSION ADVOCACY FOUNDATION (LEAF)

In 2014, the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting increased healthy human lifespan through fiscally sponsoring longevity research projects and raising awareness regarding the societal benefits of life extension. In 2015 they launched Lifespan.io, the first nonprofit crowdfunding platform focused on the biomedical research of aging.

They believe that this will enable the general public to influence the pace of research directly. To date they have successfully supported four research projects aimed at investigating different processes of aging and developing therapies to treat age-related diseases.

The LEAF team organizes educational events, takes part in different public and scientific conferences, and actively engages with the public on social media in order to help disseminate this crucial information. They initiate public dialogue aimed at regulatory improvement in the fields related to rejuvenation biotechnology.

Finally, Rejuvenation is a Thing! – Fresh Interview with Aubrey de Grey by Ariel VA Feinerman

Finally, Rejuvenation is a Thing! – Fresh Interview with Aubrey de Grey by Ariel VA Feinerman

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Ariel VA Feinerman
Aubrey de Grey


This interview was originally published here

Preface

What is ageing? We can define ageing as a process of accumulation of the damage which is just a side-effect of normal metabolism. While researchers still poorly understand how metabolic processes cause damage accumulation, and how accumulated damage causes pathology, the damage itself — the structural difference between old tissue and young tissue — is categorized and understood pretty well. By repairing damage and restoring the previous undamaged — young — state of an organism, we can really rejuvenate it! It sounds very promising, and so it is. And for some types of damage (for example, for senescent cells) it is already proved to work!

Today in our virtual studio, somewhere between cold, rainy Saint-Petersburg and warm, sunny Mountain View, we meet Aubrey de Grey, again! For those of you who are not familiar with him, here is a brief introduction.

Dr Aubrey de Grey is the biomedical gerontologist who researched the idea for and founded SENS Research Foundation. He received his BA in Computer Science and Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Cambridge in 1985 and 2000, respectively. Dr. de Grey is Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, is a Fellow of both the Gerontological Society of America and the American Aging Association, and sits on the editorial and scientific advisory boards of numerous journals and organizations. In 2011, de Grey inherited roughly $16.5 million on the death of his mother. Of this he assigned $13 million to fund SENS research.

Note: If you have not read “Ending Aging” yet I suggest you to do it as soon as possible, and to be more comfortable with the ideas we are discussing below I highly recommend you to read short introduction to SENS research on their web page. Also if you are interested in recent news and up-to-date reviews about [anti]ageing and rejuvenation research the best place to look for is Fight Aging! blog. Finally, if you are an investor or just curious, I highly encourage you to take a look at Jim Mellon’s book “Juvenescence”.

Interview

Ariel Feinerman: Hello, Dr Aubrey de Grey!

Aubrey de Grey: Hello Ariel — thanks for the interview.

Ariel Feinerman: How do you feel 2018 year? Can you compare 2018 to 2017 or early years? What is changing?

Aubrey de Grey: 2018 was a fantastic year for rejuvenation biotechnology. The main thing that made it special was the explosive growth of the private-sector side of the field — the number of start-up companies, the number of investors, and the scale of investment. Two companies, AgeX Therapeutics and Unity Biotechnology, went public with nine-digit valuations, and a bunch of others are not far behind. Of course this has only been possible because of all the great progress that has been made in the actual science, but one can never predict when that slow, steady progress will reach “critical mass”.

Ariel Feinerman: In 2017 SENS RF have received about $7 million. What has been accomplished in 2018?

Aubrey de Grey: We received almost all of that money right around the end of 2017, in the form of four cryptocurrency donations of $1 million or more, totalling about $6.5 million. We of course realised that this was a one-off windfall, so we didn’t spend it all at once! The main things we have done are to start a major new project at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, focused on stem cell therapy for Alzheimer’s, and to broaden our education initiative to include more senior people. See our website and newsletters for details.

Ariel Feinerman: What breakthroughs of 2018 can you name as the most important by your choice?

Aubrey de Grey: On the science side, well, regarding our funded work I guess I would choose our progress in getting mitochondrial genes to work when relocated to the nucleus. We published a groundbreaking progress report at the end of 2016, but to be honest I was not at all sure that we would be able to build quickly on it. I’m delighted to say that my caution was misplaced, and that we’ve continued to make great advances. The details will be submitted for publication very soon.

Ariel Feinerman: You say that many of rejuvenating therapies will work in clinical trials within five years. Giving that many of them are already working in clinical trials or even in the clinic (like immunotherapiescell and gene therapies) do you mean the first — maybe incomplete — rejuvenation panel, when you speak of early 2020?

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, basically. SENS is a divide-and-conquer approach, so we can view it in three overlapping phases. The first phase is to get the basic concept accepted and moving. The second phase is to get the most challenging components moving. And the third phase is to combine the components. Phase 1 is pretty much done, as you say. Phase 2 is beginning, but it’s at an early stage. Phase 3 will probably not even properly begin for a few more years. That’s why I still think we only have about a 50% chance of getting to longevity escape velocity by 2035 or so.

Ariel Feinerman: Even now many investors are fearful of real regenerative medicine approaches. For example pharmacological companies which use small molecules, like Unity Biotechnology, received more than $300 million, in much more favour than real bioengineering companies like Oisin Biotechnologies, received less than $4 million, even though the biological approach is much more powerful, cheap, effective and safe! Why is this so in your opinion, and when can we see the shift?

Aubrey de Grey: I don’t see a problem there. The big change in mindset that was needed has already occurred: rejuvenation is a thing. It’s natural that small-molecule approaches to rejuvenation will lead the way, because that’s what pharma already knows how to do. Often, that approach will in due course be overtaken by more sophisticated approaches. Sometimes the small molecules will actually work well! It’s all good.

Ariel Feinerman: Do you agree that the small-molecule approach is generally the wrong way in the future rejuvenation therapies? Because they have many flaws — especially their main mechanism via interference with human metabolism. Unlike them SENS bioengineering therapies are designed to be metabolically inert — because they just eliminate the key damage, they do not need to interfere with metabolism, so it is much easier than usual to avoid side effects and interactions with other therapies. They just eliminate the key damage, which means they are easier to develop and test — and much safer.

Aubrey de Grey: Ah, no, that’s too simplistic. It’s not true that small molecules always just “mess with metabolism” whereas genetic and enzymatic approaches eliminate damage. Small molecules that selectively kill senescent cells are absolutely an example of SENS-esque damage repair; the only thing against them is that it may be more difficult to eliminate side-effects, but that’s not because of their mode of action, it’s because of an additional action.

Ariel Feinerman: In recent years many countries gave the green light for regenerative medicine. Fast-track approval in Japan, for example, allows for emerging treatments to be used so long as they have been proven safe. The similar approach works in Russia. What about the EU or USA?

Aubrey de Grey: There’s definitely a long way to go, but the regulatory situation in the West is moving in the right direction. The TAME trial has led the way in articulating an approvable endpoint for clinical trials that is ageing in all but name, and the WHO has found a very well-judged way to incorporate ageing into its classification.

Ariel Feinerman: Do you think of working with USA Army? As far as we know they conduct research on regeneration and are very interested in keeping soldiers healthier for longer. And they have much money!

Aubrey de Grey: The Department of Defense in the USA has certainly funded a lot of high-impact regenerative medicine research for many years. I’m sure they will continue to do so.

Ariel Feinerman: Is any progress in the OncoSENS programme? Have you found any ALT genes? Is any ongoing research in WILT?

Aubrey de Grey: No — in the end that program was not successful enough to continue with, so we stopped it. There is now more interest in ALT in other labs than there was, though, so I’m hopeful that progress will be made. But also, one reason why I felt that it was OK to stop was that cancer immunotherapy is doing so well now. I think there is a significant chance that we won’t need WILT after all, because we will really truly defeat cancer using the immune system.

Ariel Feinerman: Spiegel Lab has recently published an abstract where they say they have found 3 enzymes capable of breaking glucosepane. Very exiting info! When can we hear more on their research? Revel LLC is a very secretive company.

Aubrey de Grey: They aren’t really being secretive, they are just setting up.

Ariel Feinerman: When can we see the first clinical trial of glucosepane breaker therapy?

Aubrey de Grey: I think two years is a reasonable estimate, but that’s a guess.

Ariel Feinerman: What do you think of the Open Source approach in rejuvenation biotechnology? The computer revolution in the early 2000s has taken place only because Open Source caused an explosion in software engineering!

We have many examples when Big Pharma buys a small company which has patents on technology and then cancels all research. In the Open Source approach you cannot “close” any technology, while everyone can contribute, making protocol better and everyone can use that without any licence fee! Anyway, there are countries where you cannot protect your patents. Maybe it will be better to make technology open from the beginning?

Famous biohacker Josiah Zayner said: “In the gene therapy world most treatments are easy to replicate or pirate because you can reverse engineer the DNA from scientific papers or patents. Same exact treatment, same purity and quality I could give to someone rejected from the clinical trial. The cost? Hundreds or a few thousand dollars at most. Same deal with immunotherapy.”

Aubrey de Grey: I think you’ve pretty much answered your own question with that quote. The technologies that will drive rejuvenation are not so easy to suppress.

Ariel Feinerman: Is the SENS RF going to begin new research programmes in 2019?

Aubrey de Grey: Sure! But we are still deciding which ones. We expect that our conference in Berlin (Undoing Aging, March 28–30) will bring some new opportunities to our attention.

Ariel Feinerman: What are your plans for 2019?

Aubrey de Grey: I’d like to say less travelling, but that doesn’t seem very likely at this point. Really my goal is just to keep on keeping on — to do all I can to maintain the growth of the field and the emerging industry.

Ariel Feinerman: Thank you very much for your answers, hope to see you again!

Aubrey de Grey: My pleasure!

Ariel VA Feinerman is a researcher, author, and photographer, who believes that people should not die from diseases and ageing, and whose main goal is to improve human health and achieve immortality. If you like Ariel’s work, any help would be appreciated via PayPal: arielfeinerman@gmail.com.

The 2020 Undoing Aging Conference Will Take Place May 21 to 23 in Berlin, Germany – Announcement by Undoing Aging

The 2020 Undoing Aging Conference Will Take Place May 21 to 23 in Berlin, Germany – Announcement by Undoing Aging

Undoing Aging


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this announcement by the Undoing Aging Conference, a joint project between the SENS Foundation and the Forever Healthy Foundation,  originally published on their site on April 2, 2019.  The Undoing Aging Conference is focused on the cellular and molecular repair of age-related damage as the basis of therapies to bring aging under full medical control. Undoing Aging 2020 will once again bring together scientists and startups from around the globe, all pioneers in their respective fields, who are leading the charge in maintaining and restoring full health in old age. Such research is supported by the U.S. Transhumanist Party as part of our policy goals.

~ Brent Reitze, Applicant for Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party, April 4, 2019


April 2, 2019  Mountain View, California / Berlin, Germany

After the incredible success of the 2019 Undoing Aging Conference, SENS Research Foundation and Forever Healthy Foundation are pleased to announce Undoing Aging 2020, which will take place on May 21 – 23. As UA2019 was sold out with nearly 500 participants from over 30 countries, Undoing Aging 2020 will be moving to a larger venue.

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The Undoing Aging Conference is focused on the cellular and molecular repair of age-related damage as the basis of therapies to bring aging under full medical control.  Among the 40 brilliant speakers at Undoing Aging 2019, there were giants in regenerative medicine such as: Dr. Nir Barzilai, Dr. Jerry Shay, Dr. Evan Snyder, Dr. Judith Campisi, and many more. Undoing Aging 2020 will once again bring together scientists and startups from around the globe, all pioneers in their respective fields, who are leading the charge in maintaining and restoring full health in old age. To accommodate the exciting growth of the emerging rejuvenation biotechnology industry, Undoing Aging 2020 will add a dedicated forum and exhibition space for rejuvenation biotech companies to present themselves to prospective investors and industry partners.

Additionally, the 2020 conference will add a special “Rejuvenation Now” session highlighting the first generation of human rejuvenation therapies that are either currently in clinical trials or are available today.

Undoing Aging 2020 is not only open to the scientific community, but also welcomes startups, investors, the general media, and all interested members of the broader rejuvenation movement. The conference will feature a student poster session showing the work of innovative undergraduate and graduate students in the field of damage repair.

“The accelerating rate of progress in rejuvenation research is now unmistakeable at all levels: publications, transfer into rapidly-funded startup companies, and even into the clinic. One marker of this is the worldwide proliferation of conferences focused on it. But I have no doubt that Undoing Aging will maintain its pre-eminence among them, with its strong focus on the most cutting-edge science, its long history dating back to my first Cambridge conference in 2003, and above all its steadfast support from Forever Healthy,” said Dr. Aubrey de Grey, CSO of SENS Research Foundation.

“We are very excited to work with SENS on Undoing Aging,” stated Michael Greve, founder, and CEO of the Forever Healthy Foundation. “Forever Healthy has two key goals for this conference: To support the remarkable scientific community and the rejuvenation biotechnology startups already working on repair of age-related damage and to create an unique opportunity to experience that bringing aging under complete, genuine medical control is realistic, achievable, and, indeed, beginning to happen.“


About Forever Healthy Foundation
Forever Healthy is a private, non-profit initiative with the mission to enable people to vastly extend their healthy lifespan and be part of the first generation to cure aging.

Thru its ‘Rejuvenation Now‘ and ‘Maximizing Health‘ initiatives, Forever Healthy seeks to continuously identify and evaluate new rejuvenation therapies on risks, benefits, and potential application and to harness the enormous wealth of the world’s cutting-edge medical knowledge to empower informed decisions about health and well-being.

In addition, Forever Healthy supports the development of rejuvenation therapies that undo the damage of aging by funding basic research, bringing together the world’s leading scientists at the Undoing Aging conference and supporting startups that work on actual therapies for human use. For more information, please visit forever-healthy.org

About SENS Research Foundation
SENS Research Foundation is a 501(c) nonprofit that works to research, develop and promote comprehensive regenerative medicine solutions for the diseases of aging. The foundation is focused on a damage-repair paradigm for treating the diseases of aging, which it advances through scientific research, advocacy, and education.

SENS Research Foundation supports research projects at universities and institutes around the world with the goal of curing such age-related diseases as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Educating the public and training researchers to support a growing regenerative medicine field are also significant endeavors of the organization that are being accomplished through advocacy campaigns and educational programs. For more information, please visit sens.org

To stay updated on Undoing Aging, you can follow their facebook page.

Aubrey de Grey – Clinical Trials in Five Years – Interview by Laura Sanz Olacia

Aubrey de Grey – Clinical Trials in Five Years – Interview by Laura Sanz Olacia

logo_bgLaura Sanz Olacia
Aubrey de Grey


Editor’s Note: In this interview originally published by our allies at the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), Laura Sanz Olacia discusses with Dr. Aubrey de Grey his anticipation that treatments aimed at reversing biological aging may enter clinical trials within five years. The U.S. Transhumanist Party is pleased to feature these insights from Dr. de Grey. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, December 18, 2018

 


In November, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, a graduate of the University of Cambridge, was in Spain to attend the Longevity World Forum in the city of Valencia, and he gave a press conference organized by his friend, MIT engineer José Luis Cordeiro.

Dr. Aubrey de Grey is the scientific director (CSO) and founder of the SENS Research Foundation. In Madrid and Valencia, Dr. de Grey reaffirmed for Tendencias21 one of his most striking statements of 2018: “In the future, there will be many different medicines to reverse aging. In five years, we will have many of them working in early clinical trials.”

The Longevity World Forum is a congress on longevity and genomics in Europe. It is heir to the first congress in Spain, the International Longevity and Cryopreservation Summit, which was held at the CSIC headquarters in Madrid in May 2017, and Dr. de Grey also participated in that event. In Valencia, his presentation was recieved with interest, and Dr. de Grey explained to this select audience that aging will be treated as a medical problem in the near future. Rather than treating its symptoms using the infectious disease model, the root causes of aging will themselves be treated.

It was published recently on longevityworldforum.com that a therapy to reverse aging will be a reality within five years. What will be its mechanism of action, roughly?

There will not be just one medicine; there will be a lot of different medicines, and they will all have different mechanisms of action. For example, some of them will be stem cells, where we put cells back into the body in order to replace cells that the body is not replacing on its own. Sometimes, they will be drugs that kill cells that we don’t want. Sometimes, they will be gene therapy treatments that give cells new capabilities to break down waste products, for example. Sometimes, they will be vaccines or other immune therapies to stimulate the immune system to eliminate certain substances. Many different things. In five years from now, we will probably have most of that working. I do not think that we will really have it perfect by then; probably, we will still be at the early stages of clinical trials in some of these things. Then, we will need to combine them, one by one, to make sure that they do not affect each other negatively. So, there will still be some way to go. But, yes, I think it’s quite likely that in five years from now, we will have everything, or almost everything, in clinical trials.

Then clinical trials for seven years until it’s perfected. Don’t clinical trials usually take a long time?

It depends. For example, in aging, because there is this progressive accumulation of damage, you could have therapies that slow down the rate at which damage accumulates, or you could have therapies that repair the damage that has already happened. The second type of therapy is what we think is going to be most effective and is going to be easiest to do, and you can see results from that very quickly, like in one or two years. Now, of course, you still want to know what happens later on, but the first thing is to determine whether this is working at all, and as soon as it starts to work, then you can start to make it available. Clinical trials are changing in that way. Historically, clinical trials had to be completed before anybody could get these drugs, but now we are getting new policies; there is a thing called adaptive licensing, which is becoming popular in the US and elsewhere, where the therapy becomes approved at an earlier stage, and then it’s monitored after that.

Beyond the humanitarian perspective of avoiding the pain and suffering that comes with old age, if increasing the years of healthy life in people will significantly reduce health care spending by governments, why don’t they promote research in this area?

You’re absolutely right. It’s quite strange that governments are so short-sighted. But, of course, the real problem is psychological: it’s not just governments that are short-sighted. Almost everybody in the world is short-sighted about this. The reason I believe why that’s true is people still can’t quite convince themselves that it’s going to happen. Since the beginning of civilization, we have known that there is this terrible thing called aging, and we have been desperate to do something about it, to get rid of it. And people have been coming along, ever since the beginning of civilization, saying, “Yes, here’s the solution, here’s the fountain of youth!” And they’ve always been wrong. So, when the next person comes along and says they think they know how to do it, of course, there is going to be some skepticism until they have really shown that it’s true. Of course, if you don’t think it’s going to work, then you’re not going to support the effort financially. It’s very short-sighted, but it’s understandable.

Why do you think that the pharmaceutical industry does not devote its research and development efforts to this area, which causes the death of 100,000 people every day?

Today, the pharmaceutical industry is geared toward keeping old people alive when they are sick. It makes its money that way. It’s not just the pharmaceutical industry, it’s the whole of the medical industry. And so, most people say that they are worried that maybe the pharmaceutical industry will be against these therapies when they do come along. I don’t think that’s true at all. I think they will be in favor because people will be in favor, but people are not really in favor yet. People don’t really trust preventive medicine. They think “Okay if I am not yet sick…” They don’t trust medicine in general; they know that this is experimental. So, when they are not yet sick, they think “Well, I’ll wait until I am sick,” but we can change that. Eventually, people will understand that it’s going to be much more effective to treat yourself before you get sick, and then the whole medical industry will just respond to that; they will make the medicines that people want to pay for.

So you don’t think that they will be against these therapies?

No. They will follow.

But now, they are not focusing their research into this field.

That’s right because they don’t need to. The big pharmaceutical companies don’t really do much of their own research in the first place. They just wait to see what happens, and then they buy small companies.

In the car analogy that you use, you say that a car is built to last 10 or 15 years, but with proper maintenance, it can last up to 100 years. Isn’t this expressing the idea that aging is programmed and that the life of a car is also programmed?

No, it’s not. All of you know that, a long time ago, Henry Ford invented a concept called planned obsolescence, which was a way of building a car so that you could predict pretty accurately how long it would last. But, of course, the only reason that the prediction works is because people are lazy, and they don’t mind replacing their cars, so they only do the minimum amount of maintenance that the law tells them to. The reason that some cars last 100 years is not because those cars were built differently, it’s because there are a few people out there who fall in love with their cars and they don’t want them to get old. So, it really is exactly the same. In the human body, we have aging, because there are certain types of damage that are not automatically repaired when they happen. Of course, many types of damage in the human body are repaired automatically when they happen, so we don’t need medicine for that, but some of them are not. So, if we can develop medicines that do fix those things, it’s exactly the same as with a car.

If aging is not programmed, why do different species have different lifespans?

Because they have different qualities of built-in repair machinery. When I talk about all these types of damage, they are the types of damage that accumulate in the body, and they accumulate because the body does not have ways to repair them. There are massive amounts of other types of damage that I don’t call damage, and the reason I don’t call them damage is because they don’t accumulate. The reason that they don’t accumulate is because we already have built-in machinery to repair them when they happen. So, long-lived species have more comprehensive automatic repair machinery built into them.

Do you think that first we can focus on just replacing organs and restoring their function, and eventually we can eliminate the root causes of aging? Once we reach longevity escape velocity, maybe we can focus on just eliminating it?

We will never be able to stop the body from creating this damage. The body is going to do that because it is intrinsic to metabolism, but the better we get at repairing the damage, the fewer problems we have.

What healthy habits do you follow now?

I don’t do healthy habits. I’m lucky, I don’t need to do anything; I can drink whatever I like and nothing happens. I don’t even do much exercise, and also I don’t get nearly enough sleep, which is probably shortening my life, but it is worth it because I am hastening the defeat of aging, so it is a net positive.

Which generation will live to be a thousand years old? Do you think it is born already?

I think it is very probably born already, yes. But, of course, we cannot know until we get the medicines.

Which country do you think is more aware, or the people is more aware that this is a problem that we need to fix?

I would say Russia.

Russia?

Yeah. Surprising, isn’t it? But when I go to Russia and I talk about all of this, it’s so wonderful; I don’t get any of the uninformed questions, and everyone seems to understand it.

They don’t ask you ethical questions?

That’s right, yeah. They understand that this is a medical problem, it needs to be fixed, and it can be fixed.

Kriorus [the first and only cryonics company in Eurasia] is there right?

Yeah, I know Kriorus, I know the people very well.

Alcor [the world leader in cryonics located in Arizona] is the most expensive.

It gives the best service. I mean, it makes sense to have a very expensive, high-quality service and also less expensive and lower quality service. That is normal.

Where are you currently living?

I live in the United States, but I go everywhere when I am invited to speak and so on.

Laura Sanz Olacia, has a degree in Pharmacy from the Complutense University of Madrid (2015). Between 2016 and 2017 she worked for nine months in different pharmacies in London. She also worked in a pharmacy laboratory compounding medicines and cosmetics in Madrid. More recently she worked in IQVIA as Data Management Analyst. She is very interested in research and, in particular, in the area of ​aging. During her stay in London, she participated in the organization of the Antiaging Conference London 2016, and back in Madrid, she collaborated closely with the organizing committee of the International Longevity and Cryopreservation Summit 2017. She wants to devote her career to doing research in this field.

The Need for Unity and Stability in Transhumanism – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Need for Unity and Stability in Transhumanism – Article by Arin Vahanian

 

Arin Vahanian


Although Transhumanism is heavily inspired by (and also inspires) advancements in science and technology, I believe the movement could also benefit from implementing cultural aspects; in particular, those from China.

This became very clear to me not just after living in China, but also after reading the works of Dr. Martin Jacques, British professor and journalist, who is, in my mind, one of the most knowledgeable Westerners when it comes to Chinese culture and history.

Specifically, in his writings and public appearances, Dr. Jacques has elucidated various aspects of Chinese culture, two of which I think are important for Transhumanism to consider: unity and stability. I shall cover each one briefly here, and explain how our movement would benefit.

Although the Transhumanist movement is rather decentralized, and I believe in keeping it this way, we most definitely need unity, especially in regard to our values and objectives. To this end, the U.S. Transhumanist Party has published its values on its Web site, which include but are not limited to: eradicating disease; the cultivation of science, technology, and reason; support of all emerging technologies that improve the human condition; life extension; reversing aging; tolerance and inclusivity of all individuals, and so forth. I believe every Transhumanist would support these values, all of which are noble, and all of which would most certainly contribute to having a better, more prosperous, and safer world.

Any organization, family, company, group, team, or political party, for that matter, needs unity in order to stay together and fulfill its goals and aspirations. Conversely, lack of unity may lead to chaos, discordance, and dysfunction. According to Dr. Jacques, the primary political goal for the Chinese is unity. Indeed, there would have been no way for Mandarin to become the national language, nor any way for the dizzying progress (whether it is technological, societal, or economic) we have seen in the country to have occurred, without unity. Please note that I am not advocating for a change in the political process anywhere else, nor am I suggesting that other countries adopt the same political or economic system as China. I am simply stating that being unified in our goals and values is incredibly important if we wish to fulfill these goals and proliferate our values.

Just as the Chinese look at themselves as Chinese, so we must look at ourselves as Transhumanists. However, there is one major difference; while not everyone can be Chinese, anyone can be Transhumanist. Our movement is inclusive to all individuals, regardless of race, gender, class, religion, and sexual preference. Therefore, I believe that we can be unified while also being open, tolerant, and accepting of all humans.

This leads me to my next point, which is stability. There is no question that in China, as well as other Asian countries, stability is paramount. After all, an unstable society cannot work together to fulfill its objectives and protect its values. Fortunately, we have stability in the Transhumanist movement in the areas of political leadership (Zoltan Istvan, Gennady Stolyarov II), life extension (Max More, Keith Comito), aging (Aubrey de Grey), and more. What’s fascinating is that the movement is so diverse and broad, and the areas for improvement on Earth so plentiful, that we have had individuals naturally dedicate themselves to causes they deemed worthy. This has contributed to stability in the sense that people are working on what they are passionate about, and these same people have, as a result, provided stable leadership in these areas. We must ensure that this stability continues, and that we help advance the causes we believe in by promoting them on social media and mass media. We must also support those who are bravely and selflessly dedicating their lives to helping humanity move forward. All of these actions will contribute to further stabilizing the movement and what it stands for.

Additionally, we must maintain stability in our relationships with each other, as well as the messages that we communicate to others. No matter how small or large a role we each take on, our mandate as Transhumanists is to push for reforms that will improve the human condition for as many people as possible, with as much beneficial impact as possible. In doing so, we must communicate our message that science, technology, and rational discourse should be used for efforts such as curing disease, increasing human longevity, alleviating poverty, and battling climate change.

While we are completely opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we are completely open to tolerance and inclusivity of individuals, and offer assistance to those who may have been shunned by the system, either due to disability or the desire to challenge society so that we may be better humans. We are an organization that values and promotes pacifism, and by doing so, we are creating a more stable society, and world.

So my call to action today is this. Rather than argue whether a certain economic system is better than another for Transhumanism, we should focus on our values and goals, thereby fulfilling our mission, and be supportive of whichever economic system best helps get that done, whichever country we happen to live in. Different economic systems work in different countries, and we should not be dogmatic, but rather, flexible and solution-oriented.

Additionally, rather than debate one another, we must instead discuss and cooperate, again, with the intent of pushing forward our goals. Debating takes valuable time and resources away from achieving our goals, and the time that is spent on needless arguments could be spent on finding solutions to challenges that threaten humanity. While it is perfectly acceptable and in fact, desirable, to have differences of opinion, we should use these differences to collaborate and help develop solutions to the problems we humans face. We are finally getting more traction in social media, mass media, and in various communities and countries all over the world, and so we should take advantage of these trends to further spread our messages of peace, increased health and longevity, and technological innovation that will benefit humanity.

One of the challenges the Transhumanism movement currently faces is an inaccurate and unfair perception that it is a niche movement, unable to appeal to most people, and the product of wealthy technophiles in Silicon Valley. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Among our ranks are people of all nationalities, social statuses, races, genders, and religions, and we are the only movement that supports morphological freedom. Further, we are dedicated to goals such as alleviating poverty, curing disease, eliminating nuclear weapons, spreading peace, and using science and technology to make life better for all humans, not just a privileged few. Surely these are values that most, if not all humans, could stand behind. Based on this, it is quite clear that Transhumanism is most certainly not a niche movement, and that it is one of the most progressive and inclusive movements the world has ever seen.

Therefore, the best way we can promote our messages and fulfill our objectives is by being unified in our purpose, mission, and values, and be stable in our leadership, approach, and relationships. Let’s not do our detractors’ work for them by being splintered and divided, nor become detractors ourselves. Let us coalesce for the betterment of humanity, and turn our detractors into friends, supporters, and partners. Indeed, the future of the world, and that of humanity, depends on it.

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey by Yuri Deigin

Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey by Yuri Deigin

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Yuri Deigin
Aubrey de Grey


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party is pleased to publish this in-depth interview by Yuri Deigin of Dr. Aubrey de Grey, the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Anti-Aging Advisor. Herein Dr. de Grey offers original, in-depth insights regarding the current state of research and public opinion regarding the pursuit of advances in rejuvenation biotechnology that will hopefully achieve significant life extension, one of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Core Ideals, within our lifetimes.  This interview was originally published in the Russian language here. The English-language version was first published by one of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Allied Organizations, the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), here

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, July 29, 2018

Note from the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF): Today we have an interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey from the SENS Research Foundation. This interview conducted by Yuri Deigin, CEO at Youthereum Genetics, was originally published in Russian language and he has kindly translated it into English so our audience can enjoy it, too.


Yuri: Aubrey, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview. Why don’t we dive right in? I am sure everybody asks you this: how and when did you become interested in aging, and when did you decide to make it your life’s mission to defeat it?

Aubrey de Grey: I became interested in aging and decided to work on it in my late 20s, so, in the early 1990s. The reason I became interested was because that was when I discovered that other biologists were almost all not interested in it. They did not think that aging was a particularly important or interesting question. I had always assumed, throughout my whole life, that aging was obviously the world’s most important problem. I thought that people who understood biology would be working on it really hard. Then, I discovered that wasn’t true and that hardly any biologists were working on it. The ones that were weren’t doing it very well, not very productively as far as I could see. I thought I’d better have a go myself, so I switched fields from my previous research area, which was artificial intelligence.

Yuri: By the way, do you think there are disproportionately many people from computer science in aging research these days?

Aubrey de Grey: There are a lot, and there are lots of people who are supporting it. Most of our supporters are, in one way or another, people from computer science or from mathematics, engineering, or physics. I think the reason why that has happened is actually very similar to the reason why I was able to make an important contribution to this field.

I think that people with that kind of background, that kind of training, find it much easier to understand how we should be thinking about aging: as an engineering problem. First of all, we must recognize that it is a problem, and then we must recognize that it is a problem that we could solve with technology. This is something that most people find very alien, very difficult to understand, but engineers seem to get it more easily.

Yuri: So do you think that people who don’t have such a background, this way of thinking, have a chance of understanding the importance of this problem, or are they better off letting people with an engineering mindset figure it out?

Aubrey de Grey: Well, of course, there is always an overlap. The reason I spend so much time doing interviews and running around the world giving talks is precisely in order to help people, for whom this is not obvious, to think about these things. For any new idea or any new way of thinking, there are always people who understand it first and who then communicate that knowledge to other people.

Yuri: Right. And you have been running around giving talks for a very long time, as I understand. It’s been, what, twenty years?

Aubrey de Grey: Well, at least 15 years that I’ve been doing a lot of it.

Yuri: So between the time in your twenties, when you realized that aging is not something that’s being adequately covered by biologists, and the time when you decided to have a go at it yourself, how many years have passed? And can you give a bit more background on when you founded SENS and what SENS is?

Aubrey de Grey: Sure! The year in which I switched fields properly is probably 1995. For the next five years, I was basically just learning. I was going to all the conferences, getting to know the right people, leaders in the field. Learning a lot of what was known and doing a huge amount of reading, of course. The big breakthrough came in the summer of 2000 when I realized that comprehensive damage repair was a much more promising option then what people had been doing before. Since then, it has been a matter of persuading people of that.

There were a few years when I was just ignored and people thought I was crazy and didn’t think I made any sense. Then, gradually, people realized that what I was saying was not necessarily crazy. Some people found it threatening, so in the mid-2000s, I had a fair amount of battles to fight within academia. That’s normal; that’s what happens with any radical new idea that is actually right, so that happened for a while. This decade, it’s been rather easier. We founded the SENS Foundation; we’ve started getting enough donations into the SENS Foundation to be able to do our own research, both within our own facilities as well as funding research at universities and institutes. Gradually, this research had moved far along enough that we could publish initial results. Over the past two or three years, we’ve been able to spin off a bunch of companies that we have transferred technology to so that they can actually attract money from investors.

There are, of course, an awful lot of people out there who believe in what we are doing, but they fundamentally don’t like charities; they don’t like to give money away. They have been waiting for the point when these projects move far enough ahead that they are investable, and that’s resulting in much more money flowing into these areas.

Yuri: This is a good point you bring up – that a lot of wealthy people for some reason aren’t prepared to spend money on fundamental research on aging but somehow desire a financial return on their investments in this field. Do you know why that is? Why can’t they realize that in their position, it is much more rational to try to convert their wealth into something much more valuable that they cannot yet ever get back, which is years of healthy life. Why do they try to also make money on this research?

Aubrey de Grey: Well, it’s not really a rational decision, and it’s different for every individual, whether it’s for that reason or any other. Let me first say that it actually seems less of a problem in Russia. Our single biggest donor at the moment is Vitalik Buterin, the guy who created Ethereum, who is a Canadian of Russian heritage. Another major donor of ours is a guy named Michael Antonov, one of the co-founders of Oculus. I think maybe Russians have less of a problem with this. However, in general, the kind of people who have a lot of money and who are also visionary enough and understand technology enough, they tend to be the kind of people who made their money by doing certain things; they got it through the capitalist system. So, those kinds of people are inherently biased in favor of that system and against philanthropy. Then, of course, there are many other reasons. There are some people who won’t give us money because they don’t think it’s a good idea to defeat aging. There are plenty of people who want to give us money, but their wives think it’s crazy. I am not kidding! There are at least a couple of our major verbal supporters who I know for a fact that that’s why they are not giving us significant amounts of money. Another reason, I think, is that some people just have overly big egos, so they think they can do better than us even when they can’t.

Yuri: Let me probe you a little bit more on this. You brought up wealthy Russians and people who think they can have a go at aging themselves. Would Sergey Brin qualify as one of those people who decided they know better and founded their own company, Calico, for precisely this reason?

Aubrey de Grey: Yeah, I had a funny feeling you might ask me about that. I have a very low opinion of Calico. The fundamental reason for this is because of Larry and Sergey. In fairness to Sergey, my understanding is that Calico is mainly a Larry project, or at least more so than a Sergey project. Of course, they are both on the Board of Directors, and they both share the responsibility. At the end of the day, Calico is a catastrophe, and it’s their fault. They just created it wrongly.

They’ve known me for fifteen years; they could easily have told me, “Listen. We don’t like charity. We want to create a company, and we want you to run it,” and I would’ve said “No problem!” and they knew that. Instead, they decided to be more traditional about this. I don’t know why. Maybe they don’t like people who have beards.

The fact is that they made an absolute catastrophe of it. They started out reasonably sensibly by hiring Art Levinson, the world’s best biotech CEO, but what they didn’t do was tell him what to do next. They gave him a job to cure aging, and he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to cure aging, and he knows that he doesn’t have the slightest idea. So, he hired someone who he thought would have an idea how to do it and made him Chief Science Officer. Unfortunately, he didn’t know how to make that decision either, so he hired completely the wrong person. He hired a completely inveterate basic scientist, David Botstein, who is a fantastic scientist but who doesn’t understand technology. In fact, he went on record saying that he doesn’t have a translational bone in his body. You don’t get that sort of person to run an outfit that’s supposed to be solving a technological problem. Sure enough, they are doing fantastic research that will understand aging better and better as time goes on over the next century, but they will never, ever, if they follow their current strategy, actually make any kind of difference in how long people can stay healthy and, therefore, how long they can stay alive.

Yuri: Why do so few people have a sense of urgency that we need to do everything possible to combat aging within our lifetimes and not centuries to follow?

Aubrey de Grey: There are two answers to that. The David Botstein answer, the Calico answer, is that they just don’t understand the idea of knowing enough. People who work on basic science understand how to find things out, but that’s all they understand. For them, the best questions to work on are the questions whose answers will simply create new questions. Their purpose in life is to create new questions rather than to use the answers for a humanitarian benefit. They don’t object to humanitarian benefit, but they regard it as not their problem. You can’t change that. Botstein is a fantastic scientist, but he’s in the wrong job.

The other part of your question, why people, in general, do not regard aging with a sense of urgency, has a different answer. People weigh up the desirability and the feasibility. Remember that everyone has been brought up to believe that aging is inevitable, I mean completely inevitable in the sense that stopping it would be like creating perpetual motion. If the probability of doing something about this thing is zero, then the desirability doesn’t matter anymore. So, under that assumption, we really ought to put it out of our minds and get on with our miserably short lives. That’s all we can do.

Yuri: So it’s a case of learned helplessness?

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, exactly, it is learned helplessness, and it’s a perfectly reasonable, rational thing to be thinking until a plan comes along that can actually solve the problem: a plan that demonstrates that we actually might be within striking distance of genuinely solving the problem. That only happened quite recently. Of course, I have a huge mountain to climb to persuade people that we have crossed the boundary from this being just a recreational, exploratory field to it being a technological, translational field.

Yuri: Have you had success in the past fifteen years that you’ve been climbing this mountain; have you seen that the public’s perception has greatly improved?

Aubrey de Grey: Absolutely. Things have got hugely easier. I mean, there is a huge amount of the mountain still to climb, but we have climbed a hell of a lot of it. Just the nature of a conversation, the kinds of people who want to hear about this. The way in which credentialed scientists with reputations that they need to protect are willing to embrace this. We could not conceivably have created the scientific advisory board that we have now fifteen or even ten years ago. There are thirty people there who are all world-leading luminaries in their fields, and they are all signed up very explicitly to the ideas that comprehensive damage repair is a thing and that it actually has a good chance of genuinely defeating aging. So, I’ve won the scientific argument.

People are even reinventing the whole idea of comprehensive damage repair and pretending it’s a new idea. Five years ago, there was a paper called “The Hallmarks of Aging” published by five very senior professors in Europe. That paper is saying pretty much exactly what I said eleven years before it. The key difference is that unlike my work, this work is being noticed. In fact, it’s been more than noticed. It’s become the definition of what’s useful work to do. This one paper that was only published 5 years ago has been cited more than 2,000 times already. There’s no question that it’s going to be, by far, the most highly cited paper in the whole of the biology of aging this decade, and it has the same ideas that I put forward the previous decade. So that’s fantastic. I’d like to have more credit, but I really don’t care about that; what I care about is that the idea is now in the mainstream.

Yuri: You mentioned your plan for comprehensive damage repair; could you elaborate a little bit more on what the plan actually is?

Aubrey de Grey: Sure. The idea is to emulate what a mechanic would do to maintain a car. We know that this works; there are cars over a hundred years old that are still running and are doing so just as well as when they were built. We know that they are not doing that because they were designed to last that long; they were probably designed to last only ten years. They’ve vastly exceeded their warranty period, and they’ve done so because of comprehensive damage repair.

The only reason that we can’t do this to the human body already is that the human body has more complexity and more types of damage. However, it’s a manageable amount of complexity. In particular, the big thing that led me through to this route was when I realized back in the year 2000 that we could classify all of the types of damage that the body accumulates into seven major categories, for each of which there’s a generic approach to fixing it.

For example, one of the categories is cell loss, which is when cells are dying and not being automatically replaced by the division of other cells. The repair, of course, is stem cell therapy. We simply put cells into the body that have been pre-programmed into a state where they know what to do to divide and transform themselves into replacements for the cells that the body is not replacing on its own. That’s just one of the seven types of damage that I enumerated, and, of course, that direction is very well advanced. We have hardly ever done any work in stem cells because we didn’t need to; other people are doing all of the work that’s necessary.

The other six categories are more neglected; they are in an earlier stage. That’s why we created the SENS Foundation to push them forward. We’ve been very successful. A number of those things have reached a point where we could actually create a startup company and transfer technology into it, so it would attract investment from the kinds of people I was mentioning earlier who don’t like to give money away.

Yuri: So you’ve created several startups, could you elaborate on the ones that have the most potential?

Aubrey de Grey: They’re all doing pretty well. Let me just focus on one as an illustration: Ichor Therapeutics. Ichor is all about macular degeneration, which is, of course, the number one cause of blindness in the elderly. The category in SENS that it comes under is the accumulation of molecular waste products inside cells. They accumulate in different cells in many different ways. It’s a side effect of their normal operation. Different cells accumulate different types of waste products. One of them is a byproduct of vitamin A that is created in the eye as a side effect of the chemistry of vision, and it poisons cells at the back of the eye called retinal pigmented epithelial cells.

What we’ve done is identify enzymes in bacteria that are able to break down this toxic waste product. If they can break it down, the waste product no longer accumulates. We have identified the genes for these enzymes, and we’ve been able to incorporate them into human cells in such a way that they still work. Ichor is pursuing that, and it will probably soon start clinical trials to pursue this as a cure for macular degeneration later this year. This is dry macular degeneration, the major form in the elderly.

Yuri: Could you tell us about some other startups that you’ve spun out from SENS?

Aubrey de Grey: Sure. Ichor was part of LysoSENS. Another one that we’ve spun off is called AmyloSENS. We’ve got a problem of waste products that accumulate not inside the cells but in the spaces between the cells. In theory, those waste products are easier to get rid of, because they’re inherently easier to break down. The way we do it is by actually getting cells to swallow this stuff, internalize it, and then break it down. There are various ways to trick the immune system into doing that. In the case of Alzheimer’s, this was done some years ago, and it’s already working in clinical trials.

Our focus has been on other types of waste products that are similar to the plaques in Alzheimer’s disease, but they consist of different proteins, and they occur in different tissues. We’ve been able to fund a group in Texas that was able to create some antibodies that could break down the extracellular garbage which is actually the number one killer for really old people, people over the age of 110. That’s now been turned into a company.

Another example is a company that’s being run by the person who used to be our Chief Operating Officer. It’s a company focused on organ preservation. It’s well-known that there’s a huge shortage of organs for transplants. Many thousands of people die every year on waiting lists, just waiting for an organ that is sufficiently immunocompatible for them and that happens to be donated by somebody who dies really nearby. That is a requirement for that organ to be given to the recipient fast enough before it breaks down. We want to solve that transport problem and create whole banks of organs with a variety of immunological profiles. In order to do that, we need to be able to freeze them, but in order to freeze them, we need to develop ways that will not cause damage to the organ in the process of freezing. The company we spun out has got a wonderful new technology that is really good at that.

Yuri: Is that Arigos? The company that uses helium persufflation for cryopreservation?

Aubrey de Grey: That’s the one. You are very well-informed!

Yuri: Can you comment on Human Regeneration Biotechnologies?

Aubrey de Grey: That was our first spin-off, actually. It’s now got a shorter name. It’s called Human Bio, and it’s run and funded by a guy named Jason Hope, who was, for some time, one of our most major donors. He’s now focusing his funding on the company. It was initially created to do something very similar to what we’re doing with Ichor in macular degeneration. In that case, it was for atherosclerosis. The target was not this byproduct of vitamin A; instead, it was oxidized cholesterol, and they have kind of run into the sand a little bit on that. We’re trying to reactivate it right now, but they’ve got other interests as well. They’re working on senolytics, drugs that will kill senescent cells. They are potentially going to be quite a big player in a number of different areas at SENS. At the moment, they are a bit stealthy; they don’t need money, because they are funded by this wealthy guy. They are not going around telling everyone all that much about what they are doing, the way that most of these companies are.

Yuri: What about enzymes that are meant to break glucosepane crosslinks? Is there a startup for that?

Aubrey de Grey: We have funded research on glucosepane at Yale University. We’ve funded that for about 4-5 years now. They had a fantastic publication 2 years ago, where they made a huge breakthrough in this area. Essentially, they first had to be able to make glucosepane in large quantities without a high expense. That was published in Science; that’s our highest-profile publication in any area. It was important because it allowed them to proceed with obvious things, such as identifying enzymes that could break it. That was very successful: they have identified half a dozen enzymes that seem to be promising. For a couple of those enzymes, there’s a pretty good understanding of how they work. Now is the right time to create a company out of that, and that’s exactly what’s happening. That company is a month or two from being incorporated, and its funding is established.

Yuri: Great, so we’ll be on the lookout for an announcement for that company to be spun off.

Aubrey de Grey: It’s going to be called Revel.

Yuri: Ah, let’s hope we can one day revel in its accomplishments.

Aubrey de Grey: That’s right!

Yuri: We might have gotten a bit too deep into science for a casual reader. Maybe we can step back and you could elaborate on what you think actually causes aging? I know there are different schools of thought on that in the scientific community so maybe you can share your perspective?

Aubrey de Grey: I get rather sick of this question, actually. You know, there’s nothing that “causes” aging. What causes the aging of a car? You wouldn’t ask that question: you know that that’s a stupid question. All I really want to tell you is that the aging of a living organism is no different fundamentally than the aging of an inanimate machine like a car or an airplane. Therefore, questions like “What causes aging?” are no more sensible for a living organism than they are for a car.

Yuri: If the underlying causes of aging are the same for all organisms, why do you think there’s such a big difference in lifespan between different species: some live for just a few months, while others for centuries?

Aubrey de Grey: The analogy with inanimate machines like cars works perfectly well there too. Some cars are designed to last 50 years, like Land Rovers, for example, but most cars are only designed to last 10 years. It’s just the same for living organisms. Some living organisms have evolved to age more slowly. A perfectly good question is what causes evolution to create this disparity? Some species in a particular ecological niche, say, at the top of the food chain have an evolutionary imperative to age slowly, whereas species that get eaten a lot don’t need to have good anti-aging defenses built into them. That’s really the basis for why there is this variation in the rate of aging across the living world.

Yuri: The more interesting question is when will humanity actually conquer aging?

Aubrey de Grey: It all depends on how rapidly research goes, and that depends on money. Which is why when people ask me, “What can I do today to maximize my chances of living healthy and for a long time?” I tell them to write me a large check. It’s the only thing one can do right now. The situation right now is that everything we have today – no matter how many books are written about this or that diet or whatever – is that basically, we have nothing over and above just doing what your mother told you: in other words, not smoking, not getting seriously overweight, and having a balanced diet. If you adhere to the obvious stuff, you are doing pretty much everything that we can do today. The additional amount that you can get from just any kind of supplement regime, diet, or whatever is tiny. The thing to do is hasten the arrival of therapy for the betterment of what we have today. That’s where the check comes in.

Yuri: Some people probably couldn’t afford to write a sizable check; maybe they can do something else?

Aubrey de Grey: What I always say in relation to that is that the poorer you are, the more people you know who are richer than you. Therefore, the less you can do in terms of writing your own check, the more you can do in terms of persuading other people to write checks.

Yuri: So it’s activism, being vocal about aging research?

Aubrey de Grey: Absolutely. It’s activism and advocacy: it’s all about spreading the word and raising the level of people’s understanding of the fact that aging is the world’s biggest problem.

Yuri: Do you see any increase in funding for longevity research over the past 10 years?

Aubrey de Grey: Things have certainly improved. I mean, there’s more money coming into the foundation, a little bit more money, but there’s a lot more money coming into the private sector, into the companies I mentioned and other companies that have emerged in parallel with us. The overall funding for rejuvenation biotechnology has increased a lot in the past few years, and we need it to increase a lot more. The private sector can’t do everything, not yet, anyway. There will come a time when SENS Research Foundation will be able to declare victory and say, “Listen, everything that needs to be done is being done well enough in the private sector that we no longer need to exist.” For the moment, that’s not true. For the moment, there are still quite a few areas in SENS that are at the pre-investable stage where only philanthropy will allow them to progress to the point where they are investable.

Yuri: It’s great to hear that there is money coming into SENS because from what I understand, there was a time when you had to use your own money to fund the foundation, is that correct?

Aubrey de Grey: That’s right. I inherited 16.5 million dollars of which I donated 13 million. That was back in 2012 before we had any projects that we could spin out into companies. That inheritance was very timely, but the point is that I would still do it even now. If my mother died today, I’d probably do the same thing, because the foundation is still the engine room of the industry. For the foundation, it’s kind of double aid. The more progress we make, the more credible the whole idea becomes, which, of course, improves our ability to bring in money. We are also creating new opportunities where you can invest rather than donate, so it’s kind of a disincentive to donate. There’s a balance there. Of course, every donor is different; some donors are more philanthropically inclined than others.

Yuri: From what I understand, you’ve had some high-profile donors like Peter Thiel who’s been supporting the foundation for a number of years. Is he still a supporter?

Aubrey de Grey: Peter started supporting us in 2006, 12 years ago. He’s actually pretty much phased out now. I understand that. Ultimately, he’s much more comfortable with investing than donating. He wanted to be sure that we’re actually creating something, and sure enough, we are. We speak all the time to his investment advisors, who focus on investment opportunities in the biotech sector, especially in the anti-aging sector. I’m sure that he will continue to contribute financially to this field, though the contributions are quite likely to be focused more on the companies rather than the foundation.

One way in which Peter is donating indirectly right now is that he funded Vitalik Buterin four years ago as a Thiel Fellow under the 20 Under 20 program. That was how and where Vitalik created Ethereum, which of course made Vitalik very wealthy, and Vitalik donated 2.5 million dollars to us a few months ago. He is very much philanthropically inclined. So, Peter is still donating to us by proxy.

Yuri: What about his PayPal co-founder, Elon Musk? Has Peter ever connected you two or maybe you spoke to Elon yourself?

Aubrey de Grey: I have indeed met Elon many years ago, probably 10 years ago. I haven’t met him recently. In general, I think it’s quite unlikely that Elon will get heavily involved in this just because he’s got other things to focus on. It’s a bit like Bill Gates, though in the opposite direction. Bill Gates has pretty much explicitly said that his priority is to help the disadvantaged. He’s much more interested in mosquito nets in sub-Saharan Africa and less interested in people who already have advantages. Elon is kind of at the other end of the spectrum. He is more of a “toys for boys” kind of guy. He’s more interested in space travel and solar energy and so on. The thing is I don’t want to take money away from either one of those two people. I think that both of them are doing fantastic work that really matters for humanity. There are plenty of other people, such as Peter Thiel, who are in the middle, who do understand the enormous value of defeating aging, and who have the vision to understand who is likely to be able to do it, so I don’t want to distract either Elon or Bill from what they’re already doing.

Yuri: Do you think Elon might be moving in a somewhat different direction of mind uploading for circumventing aging?

Aubrey de Grey: Yes and no. I kind of pay attention to what he is doing with Neuralink and what people like Bryan Johnson are doing with Kernel. I am closely connected with those groups. I know a lot of people in that space. At the end of the day, I think they know as well as I do that it’s very, very speculative. Ways in which we might transfer our consciousness, our personality to different hardware, while still satisfying ourselves that we are genuinely the same person after the transfer rather than just creating a new person – those are pretty speculative ideas. There is a long way to go to make them even slightly comparable to something that competes with medical research.

Yuri: So you think that mind uploading, even if theoretically possible, is still far off in the future as something feasible?

Aubrey de Grey: It’s always dangerous these days to say that such and such technology is definitely not going to be developed until some particular number of years in the future. At some point, people said that the game of Go would never fall to a computer, but then AlphaGo came along. However, it is a certainty that the distance that we have to go is much larger in the case of mind uploading than in the case of the boring “wet approach” of medical research.

Yuri: Speaking of AlphaGo and AI, some researchers in the aging space are working AI as a kind of proxy to help us solve biology. What do you think about that approach?

Aubrey de Grey: There is definitely an intersection there. I actually know a lot of people who are at the cutting edge of AI research. I actually know Demis Hassabis, the guy who runs DeepMind, from when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge several years after me. We’ve kept in touch and try to connect every so often. I think it’s reasonable to view these things as very linked. I certainly agree with you that there are some AI researchers who are working on AI precisely because they don’t trust people like me to get the job done by the “wet approach”. That’s fine; they may be right, and if they are right, I’ll be just as happy for them to save my life rather than me saving their lives.

Yuri: Do you think we’re close to having AI help us with biology, or do you think it’s still years away?

Aubrey de Grey: There are some medical AI startups that are looking at ways to use machine learning against aging. One of the most prominent is InSilico Medicine led by Alex Zhavoronkov, which is largely focused on identifying drugs that can work in particular ways. It’s a very important area. I’m sure that we will use AI a lot in medical research in general. Whether we will go as far as supplanting medical research with the mind uploading approach, that’s a different question altogether.

Yuri: One of your most famous quotes is that you think that a person who will live for over 1,000 years has already been born. Do you still think so and what are the chances for, say, a 50-year-old person today to reach what you call Longevity Escape Velocity?

Aubrey de Grey: I certainly think what I used to think, and it is indeed as a result of the concept of the longevity escape velocity. I do not believe that even within the next hundred years, we’re likely to develop therapies that can completely 100% succeed in repairing all the damage that body does to itself in the course of its normal operation. I do believe that we have a very good chance within the next 20-25 years of fixing most of that damage, and most are good enough because it buys time to fix a bit more and then a bit more. The reason it buys time because the body is set up to tolerate having a certain amount of damage without significantly declining function. I think we’ve got a very good chance of getting to that point while we are staying one step ahead of the problem by improving the comprehensiveness of the therapies faster than time is passing.

Yuri: So that is essentially the definition of Longevity Escape Velocity, right?

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, to be precise, Longevity Escape Velocity is the minimum rate at which we will need to improve the comprehensiveness of these therapies subsequent to the point where we get the first ones working so they get us a couple of decades of extra life. The good news is that longevity escape velocity goes down with time, because the more we can repair, the longer it takes for the stuff we can’t repair to become problematic.

Yuri: If you had unlimited funding, how long do you think it would take for us to reach Longevity Escape Velocity or the technology necessary for it?

Aubrey de Grey: It’s actually pretty difficult to answer that question because the amount of funding is kind of self-fulfilling. Every increment of progress that we achieve makes the whole idea more credible, makes more people more interested, and makes it easier to bring in the money to make the next step. I think that, at the moment, unlimited funding could probably let us increase our rate of progress by a factor of three, but that does not mean that we will change the time to get to Longevity Escape Velocity by a factor of three, because when we get even a little bit closer to it, it will be easier to get money, and that factor of three will come down. I think that right now, if we got like a billion dollars in the bank, then, in the next year, we would probably do the same amount of work and make the same amount of progress that we would otherwise make in the next three years. In the year after that, only two years of progress, and in the year after that, only a year and a half, and so on. What that adds up to is that if I got a billion dollars today, we would probably bring forward the defeat of aging by about 10 years. And it’s a lot of lives, maybe 400 million lives.

Yuri: Yes, given that 100,000 people die per day from aging-related causes, it’s a lot of lives.

Aubrey de Grey: Yup.

Yuri: So, you said, “if I had a billion in the bank”. The Chan/Zuckerberg Initiative – they said they are prepared to spend 3 billion dollars to eradicate all diseases by 2099. Maybe they can set aside 1 billion for your work. Did you ever communicate with them?

Aubrey de Grey: All I can say is that my email address is not very difficult to find online. No, we have not been in talks, and they have not made it easy for us to get in touch with them.

Yuri: That’s disappointing, especially given your close geographic proximity and the fact that you probably have an overlapping social and professional network.

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, it is very disappointing. Of course, you can argue that it’s not quite as disappointing as the situation with Calico. Because in the case of Calico we are talking about people with equally deep pockets who have known me for 15 years and who have already decided that aging itself is a thing to target. Zuckerberg, first of all, he never met me, God knows how much he knows about what we even do. Certainly, none of the pronouncements from the Chan/Zuckerberg Initiative indicate that they even understand that aging is a medical problem. They may have a long way to get to the point of even considering this.

Yuri: Yes, they do use some odd phrasing, speaking about “eradicating all diseases”, considering that all age-related diseases have one root cause – the aging process.

Aubrey de Grey: This is part of the problem. People simply should not be using the word “disease” for age-related diseases. The fact is that if a medical condition is age-related, then it’s part of aging, as it mainly affects people who have been born a long time ago. That means that it shouldn’t be described using the terminology that makes people think that it’s a bit like infection. People will often tell each other that I say that aging is a disease or a collection of diseases. But that’s completely wrong: I say the exact opposite. I say that not only should the word “disease” not be broadened to include aging, it should be narrowed to exclude the so-called diseases of old age.

Yuri: So that would be cancer, Alzheimer’s and all kinds of heart conditions…

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, and atherosclerosis, everything that’s bad for people who have been born a long time ago but that very rarely, if ever, affects people in young adulthood.

Yuri: So would you call Alzheimer’s a pathology then? If it’s not a disease?

Aubrey de Grey: I would call it part of aging. The problem is the idea of carving up little bits of aging, pretending that they are separate from each other. They’re not; they’re all parts of – consequences of – a lifelong accumulation of damage.

Yuri: Interesting. There’s been quite a large ongoing effort among the aging research advocacy community to persuade WHO to include aging as a disease in its International Classification of Diseases.

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, it seems to be going quite well, and I am very pleased to see that this effort is being led by some Russians: Daria Khaltourina, who is very much Russian, and by Ilia Stambler, who is from Israel but of Russian extraction. Again, the Russians seem to “get it” much easier than most people and it’s very heartening to me.

Yuri: Do you support this inclusion of aging into ICD as a separate disease?

Aubrey de Grey: The ICD is a little bit different. The “D” in the ICD stands for disease, but the purpose of the ICD is to determine which things medicine should be attacking. It really should be the IC of “medical conditions”. We should be distinguishing medical conditions that are extrinsic, such as infections, from the ones that are intrinsic consequences of being alive, that are age-related. I believe that it would be better if we did that by using different words, but medical conditions of old age are medical conditions, and they ought to be listed in the ICD.

Yuri: I see. Thanks for clarifying! Can I ask you about your new role with Michael West at AgeX and BioTime?

Aubrey de Grey: Michael West and I have been friends for 20 years, and, of course, we have very closely aligned goals in life. We’ve never been able to work together in a formal capacity until now, but we’ve been very much mutual admirers. I’ve always looked up to Mike as someone who, way before anyone else, did something that I thought was impossible with the creation of an actual gerontology research company, as was the case with Geron 20 years ago. He’s done it three times by now: Geron, then Advanced Cell Technology, and now with BioTime.

AgeX is a new subsidiary of BioTime that is about to be floated independently on the stock market. The goal, of course, is very much our goal: damage repair. The area that AgeX is focusing on is stem cells. There are two main themes within AgeX. One of them is stem cell therapy in the normal sense: in other words, injecting stem cells. The particular differentiator that AgeX and BioTime have is the ability to create particularly pure populations of a particular type of stem cells, ones that will only do what you want them to do – they are lineage committed in a particular way. That’s something that other organizations don’t have the ability to do nearly so well, and it’s very important; you want to be able to give the people the type of stem cells they need and not give them the other ones in the wrong place, which might do damage. That’s one side.

The other side of AgeX, which is at a much earlier stage of development, so you shouldn’t be looking out for any products on the basis of this yet, is induced stemness. In other words, it’s giving an organism not stem cells per se but rather reagents that would cause cells already in the body to revert a little bit, become more stem-like and be more able to regenerate the tissues. We already have one compound that has this effect, but we have lots and lots more work to do that will allow this to be done safely and effectively.

Yuri: Is this based on Michael West’s work in planarians, axolotls and other animals that demonstrate the ability to regenerate lost limbs even in adulthood?

Aubrey de Grey: No, not really. Certainly, we pay attention to the regenerative capacity of lower organisms, but the main focus of AgeX’s work is on what happens in early development in mammals, particularly the phase change that happens during early development, which we call the embryonic-fetal transition. It’s a little bit imprecise; we are still characterizing it, and there’s still work to do and stuff to be understood. Basically, what happens is that over a relatively short period of time during development, there is a change in the level of expression in a number of genes; some of them go up, and some go down. The particular change that happens across the entire embryo seems to coincide with – and we think it’s causally related with – the loss of regenerative capacity. In other words, before this transition, a particular type of injury to the embryo is entirely reversed by regeneration, whereas after this transaction, the same type of injury is not reversed, it’s rather patched up with scarring. That’s what happens in the adult as well. We believe that this is very indicative of something that’s going on across the whole body and that has a close relationship with the decline in regenerative capacity and repair capacity against various problems within aging.

Yuri: Is that the COX7A1 gene that was described in a paper in conjunction with Alex Zhavoronkov?

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, COX7A1 is one of the genes that change expression during the embryonic-fetal transition. We do not yet know, or at least we’re not sure, whether it plays a causal role or whether it’s just a marker. We are definitely looking quite a lot at other genes that also change, but COX7A1 is the one we focused on first and most at this point, basically just because it has the sharpest transition in the cell types that we studied so far.

Yuri: Would gene therapy be the vehicle to deliver to the body a way to modulate that gene?

Aubrey de Grey: It might be. Exactly what you do depends on which cell types you decide matter the most in expressing or not expressing a gene and in terms of what gene you want to express. Yes, we might do it with gene therapy. Of course, there are different types of gene therapy. For example, if you want to knock a gene down, you can do RNA interference, which is something that doesn’t involve integrating a new gene into the cell’s DNA. If you want to knock a gene up, you can sometimes also do it by RNA interference, because you can sometimes find the genes that antagonize the gene you want to knock up. If you knock down the gene that antagonizes the gene you want to knock up, then it happens indirectly. There are lots of tricks that are specific to the details of the genetic network, but in general, we would want to manipulate the level of expression and effectiveness of certain genes that change during the embryonic-fetal transition.

Yuri: Can I ask you about a different potential gene therapy, for example, partial reprogramming using Yamanaka factors? Do you think it has any potential as a systemic anti-aging therapy?

Aubrey de Grey: This is the idea that’s actually very similar to what I just described when I talked about the idea of restoration of stemness that we are pursuing at AgeX. Mostly, we don’t know which way is going to work better. We believe that we have a priority in terms of intellectual property, which, of course, is important for investors, but that’s not my problem; I’m focusing on the science.

Obviously, we don’t know which way is going to work best. There are lots of possibilities. The guys who pioneered the idea of partial reprogramming in vivo – there’s a group in Spain led by Manuel Serrano, who is someone I know very well; he’s spoken at one or two of our conferences in Cambridge. He’s a great guy doing a number of other really useful things; he’s got a brilliant new innovation in terms of killing senescent cells as well, which is a completely different area of SENS, of course. More recently, someone in San Diego named Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte developed a similar technique that he was able to make work, and his technique involved the intermittent inducible expression of the Yamanaka factors. Essentially, what will determine which of these approaches is the best is not just how well it works but how much harm it does, because there is always a possibility with these things that you will cause cells to become more regenerative that you wished were less regenerative, such as cancer cells, and we need to find a way to control that. It’s possible that AgeX will be able to do this better by using different genes.

Yuri: Okay, great. The reason I knew about Arigos earlier is that I am a big proponent of cryonics. I wanted to ask about your views on cryonics and whether you would personally consider it for yourself?

Aubrey de Grey: Cryonics in general – my position is well known. I’ve been a member of Alcor and a member of its scientific advisory board for 16 years now. I am definitely a very strong supporter. I think that it’s an absolute tragedy that cryonics is still such a backwater publicly and that a large majority of people still believe that it has no chance of ever working. Complete nonsense! If people understood it better, there would be more research done to develop better cryopreservation technologies, and more people would have a chance at life.

The question is what can we do to make cryonics work really well? I certainly don’t have a strong philosophical position with regard to what kinds of revival constitute actual revival and what kinds constitute creating a totally new person from information that you got from the old person. I am not a philosopher, so don’t ask me about that. My personal inclination is that if I have to be cryopreserved at all, and I hope not to be just like any cryonicist, then I prefer to be woken up by being warmed up rather than by being rebuilt from some kind of information restored from slicing and scanning my original brain. Therefore, I am really interested in improving the cryopreservation process: in other words, reducing the amount of damage that is inflicted by the process of cryopreservation and therefore would need to be repaired for successful reanimation; of course, this is along with the damage that the body already had that led to it getting declared legally dead in the first place. Arigos, with its helium persufflation approach, is, in my mind, a massive breakthrough, a breakthrough even bigger than vitrification, which was made 20 or so years ago by Greg Fahy and his peers at 21st Century Medicine when they identified a rather elaborate cocktail of cryoprotectants called M22 that allows biological material of any size to be cryopreserved without any crystallization at all. It eliminated over 90% of the damage that cryopreservation would hitherto have done to biological tissues. After that, it had become the standard of care at Alcor, the Cryonics Institute, KrioRus, and elsewhere.

We need more because the fact is that we still got a lot of cracking that happens – large-scale fracturing – and we’ve also got the toxicity of cryoprotectants, which is mild but non-trivial. Persufflation appears to solve both of these problems pretty much 100% by pumping helium through the vasculature, thereby stopping cracks from propagating, and cooling so much faster that you can vastly lower the concentration of cryoprotectants and still get no crystallization.

Yuri: Did you work with Greg Fahy or Mike Darwin at all on this technology?

Aubrey de Grey: I don’t work with any of these people, but I certainly talk to them. I am not sure what Mike Darwin has done, but Greg, as far as I know, had no work with persufflation itself. Obviously, he pioneered vitrification, but persufflation is something that was first explored in the Soviet Union, I don’t know exactly where, decades ago. Rather like parabiosis, it’s an area that was explored in the Soviet Union and then fell into neglect, and then everyone forgot about it for a long time, and then people in California found out about it and started to do something. The big innovation that Arigos has introduced was using helium, which has a number of advantages for cryonics purposes, but we are definitely building on what was originally done in the Soviet Union.

Certainly, Greg Fahy has been involved in the conversation. He has been advising a lot, and my current understanding is that he is very optimistic about the promise of persufflation, which tells a lot about Greg. The fact is that if persufflation works as well as it’s probably going to work, it’s going to blow Greg’s last 20 years of work out of the water. It takes a lot of honor.

Yuri: Absolutely; Greg is an amazing scientist and human being. I think for him, just as for you, it’s all about defeating aging first, and everything else is secondary. In any case, do you have any other cryonics research planned as part of SENS or Arigos?

Aubrey de Grey: Not as part of SENS, but, of course, I talk to all these people all the time. Something that you might be aware of, which happened very recently, was that Alcor received a very large donation of 5 million dollars specifically for research from Brad Armstrong, one of the people who made plenty of money on cryptocurrencies.

Yuri: It’s great to see crypto millionaires donating money to longevity research.

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, 5 million dollars is a hell of a lot of money for research in cryonics compared to what’s been available up until now. I am actively helping Max More, CEO of Alcor, to decide how to spend it.

Yuri: That’s great to hear. Maybe we’ll get some research done on the restoration of brain activity after cryopreservation. I know that Greg Fahy has done some prior work on assessing LTP preservation, but it’s probably outside of the scope of our interview.

Switching topics, there’s a lot of talk about the biohacking community lately, and a lot of people call themselves biohackers these days. Some claim that taking supplements or working out qualifies as biohacking. Do you consider yourself a biohacker; do you take any supplements or nootropics like Ray Kurzweil or Dave Asprey or do anything else that could be considered as biohacking?

Aubrey de Grey: I don’t take any supplements; I don’t do anything special with my lifestyle. I am not saying that that’s my recommendation for other people. My situation is very strongly that I am prepared to listen to my body. I know that I am just a lucky guy. I am genetically built so that my aging is slow, and I am fortunate enough to have been tested for a total of five times now over the past 15 years; they’ve measured 150 different things in my blood and did all manner of physiological and cognitive tests. I always come out really well, way younger than I actually am, so I should be conservative: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I eat and drink what I like, and nothing happens. I will pay attention to the situation when it changes, but it’s not changing yet. There’s a couple of things that I do that are bad for my health, especially the fact that I travel so much that I am not getting enough sleep. I think I’ve been coping with that so far as well, and, of course, the reason I do this is to hasten the defeat of aging with all the work that I do. Maybe it’s a net win. The bottom line is that I’m lucky.

I don’t say that Ray Kurzweil is being dumb in doing what he’s doing. On the contrary, Ray is one of the unlucky people; he came down with Type 2 diabetes in his 30s, and his family has had a lot of cardiovascular problems. It probably makes sense for him to be taking all of these supplements in order to largely normalize his rate of aging. For somebody whose rate is normal or better, there’s no evidence that taking supplements could actually have any benefit.

Yuri: What about the cognitive enhancers that Dave Asprey is recommending? Have you ever found anything that works or that you have considered trying?

Aubrey de Grey: No, I let my brain do what it normally does. Even for jet lag or needing to go to sleep, I don’t need these things. I can get to sleep whenever I am tired, whatever time of day it is. I occasionally thought it might be good to have a stash of modafinil just to be able to get through times when I need to stay awake for a long time, but I managed to work my way around those periods, so I haven’t done that either.

Yuri: Maybe your brain is already overactive – I read that you do math problems for fun, and what was this preprint that you published that made a splash in the media?

Aubrey de Grey: I’ve always played with maths for fun. I am reasonably good with certain types of maths, especially those that don’t need too much background knowledge because I don’t even have a degree in maths like graph theory or combinatorics. Yes, earlier this year, I got lucky and made some progress on a very famous long-standing maths problem called the Hadwiger-Nelson problem, and that got a bit of attention. The thing that strikes me the most about all that is that a number of people said, “I always thought Aubrey de Grey was a bit of a lunatic and never paid any attention to what he said about aging, but now that he made progress in this maths problem, he’s obviously smart, so now I will pay attention to what he says about aging.” I think that’s the most fucked-up logic you can possibly imagine, but I’ll take it.

Yuri: From what I understand, despite your background in computer science and no formal training in biology, you actually also have a Ph.D. in biology for your work in mitochondrial respiration back in the 1990s. Is that correct?

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, that’s correct. I benefited from the fact that I’d done my undergraduate degree fifteen years earlier in Cambridge. Of course, that was in computer science, but there’s a system at Cambridge where if you do your undergrad degree there, then you don’t have to be a Ph.D. student to get a Ph.D. from Cambridge. You can just submit published work, it gets evaluated like a dissertation, and you do a thesis defense. Mitochondrial respiration was probably the first area in biology that I got interested in and that I was invited to write a book about, so I did. It included the material for the first six papers of mine, and that’s what I ultimately got my Ph.D. for.

Yuri: It seems that the mitochondrial theory of aging was all the rage back then but has lost a lot of its appeal over the past two decades.

Aubrey de Grey: Yeah, that’s a problem. The reasons why things move in and out of fashion in a biological field are often overly superficial. Nothing’s really changed. Twenty years ago, people were overly breathless about mitochondria and free radicals, and they were neglecting the importance of the shortcomings of those theories, which my first couple of papers helped to repair. I pointed out that you can’t just say “mitochondrial mutations matter because free radicals matter.” You’ve got to flesh it out, and I did flesh it out in a way that nobody else had bothered to do.

Conversely, what happened more recently is that people have swung the other way, saying “there’s various new evidence that free radicals don’t matter, therefore game over.” Again, they are being overly simplistic in the opposite direction. In fact, what this new evidence shows is that certain, particularly simplistic, versions of the free radical theory of aging are not true, but people like me who actually pay attention knew that all along. For me, nothing’s really changed.

Yuri: You make an excellent point that there seems to be some kind of fashion in the field of biology in general or aging research in particular. I wonder why; is it just human nature to jump on the bandwagon and reject all other ideas, or is it groupthink? What is it about science?

Aubrey de Grey: In science, I would say it’s even worse than groupthink. It’s not a question of people just being sheep because they can’t think for themselves. Scientists can think for themselves. The problem in science is that people are forced to follow fashion in order to get money, whether it’s in the form of a grant application, funding, getting promoted, or tenure, which is appalling, because the whole point of science is to go against the grain, to be in the minority of one as often as possible, and to find things out that people didn’t know before. However, the way that the scientific career structure these days actually works opposes that. It’s a tragedy.

Yuri: Indeed, the incentives for going against the grain seem to be misaligned. Is there any way to mitigate this?

Aubrey de Grey: The only solution is to throw a lot more money at science so that people can be career scientists in a way that they used to be 200 years ago when no scientists were without patrons, wealthy noblemen who kept them as pets. They were getting stuff done, and they didn’t have to worry about justifying how they were getting stuff done.

Yuri: Well, let’s hope some philanthropically inclined wealthy noblemen hear you and create more fellowships. Okay, final, semi-serious question: once humanity does reach negligible senescence, what would that do to relationships, family institutions, marriage, and children?

Aubrey de Grey: Nothing at all. The only things that would happen as a result of increased longevity are simply the continuation of societal changes that have already been occurring over the past century. What I see is that as people live longer and stay healthy longer, there’s a rapid increase in the number of divorces, the number of people who have multiple relationships over their lives, and it’s just going to be a continuation of that. It’s not interesting.

Yuri: And overpopulation is never going to be an issue, right?

Aubrey de Grey: This is the one that everybody is worried about, but it’s just so silly that people worry about it. I’ve been saying this since forever – and nobody contradicts my answer, they just ignore it – the answer is that the carrying capacity of the planet, the number of people it can sustain without a problematic amount of environmental impact, is going to go up much faster than the population can possibly go up even if we completely eliminated all death. It’s going to go up as a result of renewable energy, artificial meat, desalination, and all those things. It’s just so painfully obvious, and I’ve been saying this in so many interviews and so many talks, and people just ignore it. I think the only reason people are ignoring my answer is because they need to. They need to carry on believing that aging is a blessing in disguise and thus be able to put it out of their minds, get on with their miserably short lives, and not get emotionally invested in the rate of progress that we will make.

Yuri: Well, let’s hope we can shake them out of their learned helplessness in the face of death and aging.

Aubrey de Grey: Absolutely.

Yuri: Great, thank you so much for this interview! I really look forward to seeing you in Moscow soon and discussing some of these issues in person as well as hearing about your latest achievements in the fight against humanity’s biggest problem!

Aubrey de Grey: Indeed! Thanks so much, Yuri, it’s been great.

Yuri Deigin is a serial entrepreneur and an expert in drug development and venture investments in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Yuri brings almost a decade of drug discovery and development experience from his previous role in a biotech startup where he oversaw research and development of original medicines aimed at treating diseases like Alzheimer’s and rheumatoid arthritis. Yuri has a track record of not only raising over $20 million for his previous ventures but also initiating and overseeing 4 clinical trials and several pre-clinical studies, including studies in transgenic mice. He also has experience in pharmaceutical product launch, promotion, manufacturing, and supply-chain management. Since 2013 Yuri also serves as a vice-president of the non-profit Foundation “Science for Life Extension” whose goal is the popularization of the fight against age-related diseases. To further this cause, Yuri frequently blogs, speaks, writes op-ed pieces, and participates in various TV and radio shows. Yuri holds a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto and an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School. Yuri is the CEO of biotech company Youthereum Genetics.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Answers Common Interview Questions

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Answers Common Interview Questions

Gennady Stolyarov II


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and Chief Executive of the Nevada Transhumanist Party, answers questions posed by Francesco Sacco, which are representative of common points of inquiry regarding transhumanism and the Transhumanist Party:

1. What is Transhumanism and what inspired you to follow it?
2. What are the long-term goals of the Transhumanist party?
3. What are your thoughts on death and eternal life through technological enhancements?
4. Do you feel there are any disadvantages to having access to the cure for death? What advantages are there?

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

See Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation, “The U.S. Transhumanist Party: Pursuing a Peaceful Political Revolution for Longevity“.