An interesting discussion on the structure of the Methuselah Mouse Prize for anti-aging research is being held over at the Immortality Institute forums:
Which Prize Structure Would You Rather See Promoted?
Only Postponement Prize - Embryonic Genetic Interventions (Same Intervention Cannot be Performed in Humans)
Only Reversal Prize - Adult Animal Genetic Interventions (Same Intervention Can be Performed in Humans)
For those of you unfamiliar with the work of the Methuselah Foundation:
The Methuselah Mouse Prize is the premier effort of the Methuselah Foundation. It is a contest designed to accelerate progress towards real longevity-enhancing medicine, promote public interest and involvement in research on healthy life extension, and encourage more such research by providing a financial incentive to researchers.
The fastest way to do this, in the opinion of the prize founders, is to provide financial incentives for anti-aging research in mice. There are in fact two different prizes, Postponement and Reversal:
The goal of capturing the public imagination is best achieved by a very simple prize structure, in which money is awarded simply to the producer of the world's oldest ever mouse. This should be restricted to the species used in virtually all laboratory work, Mus musculus, but no other restrictions should be placed on the way in which the mouse's lifespan is extended, except for ones that fail to maintain its cognitive and/or physical well-being. This is analogous to the situation with boxing, for example: the heavyweight championship is the one that gets by far the most publicity and money.
A major shortcoming of this simple structure exists, however. Our main purpose is to find interventions which are effective when initiated at a late age; it is very likely that interventions that are applied throughout life will always be ahead of those initiated late. Hence, there are two prizes:
- a "Postponement Prize" (PP) for the oldest-ever Mus musculus;
- a "Reversal Prize" (RP) for the best-ever late-onset intervention.
Donors are given the option of contributing to either prize, and to date most have voted for the Reversal Prize. This is a fairly straightforward and obvious choice: we want to see therapies that can be used to extend the healthy human life span in people who are already old. Ideally, this would mean rejuvenation - some way of reversing the degenerative aging process.
Those of us who keep tabs on the progress of aging and real anti-aging research expect - even in the best case - to be waiting for decades for any effective therapies that can reverse the aging process. (Although regenerative medicine and cancer research hold out the hope of more quickly developed therapies that can repair the worst age-related damage). Anti-aging therapies that can only benefit the young are not going to be much use to us.
So all that said, some folks at the Immortality Institute would like to see a more narrowly focused prize; dropping the Postponement category, for example, or being more specific about the types of intervention that can win. Some earlier back and forth over research conditions can be found in another thread in the same forum. Both conversations are worth reading.