The A4M Chicago conference later this month is, like the recent Singapore event, is very much a collision between the best and worst that business, activism and science has to offer on the topic of intervening in the aging process. I discussed this at the time of the Singapore conference:
But back to conferences. A fair number of folks in the scientific aging research community don't like A4M. If you ask them why, the A4M conferences are singled out as a cause. Scientists don't like the fact that the less reputable "anti-aging" business community - i.e. pills, potions, and adventurous marketing alongside potentially serious ventures - attend these conferences. It's taint by association. If you look at the structure of the 2004 Singapore conference, it's divided between the scientific or medical speakers and workshops and the wider community of exhibitors from the "anti-aging" marketplace.
I have my own opinions on A4M, of course. Having spoken to the folks in charge, I think their hearts are in the right place - but their methodologies leave something to be desired:
I would be the first to admit that I have my issues with A4M - such as their focus on old school technologies, and the fact that they allow the modern equivelant of pill and potion merchants to exhibit at their conferences. Although these folks do pay the bills so that reputable scientists can speak in the scientific portions of these events, I think A4M could certainly be putting much more effort into ensuring that the worst, borderline fraudulent and outright fraudulent offenders in the anti-aging marketplace are not allowed in.
A4M, in my opinion, is currently hurting the advance of serious anti-aging research as much as it is helping it. (I'll happily say the same and worse about mainstream gerontology organizations - they are as much a roadblock as they are responsible enablers of research). Fortunately, A4M shows signs of shaping up and becoming a much more positive influence overall; we shall see how that goes.
It does occur to me that much of this "shaping up" is the result of reputable aging and anti-aging researchers and advocates attempting to steer A4M and the as much of the rest of the anti-aging marketplace back to the path of righteousness (as it were). The yearly Singapore conference benefits from a local organizer who is very pro-reputable-science and has sufficient reputation within the scientific community to attract good science to the conference. The Chicago event lacks this benefit, and so there are fewer reputable speakers in the program - Ray Kurzweil and Leonid Gavrilov are amongst them, however.
There are some real borderline cases in the exhibition, as is usual. Reclaiming A4M as a net positive force for the future of real anti-aging medicine looks to be a lot of work - but worth trying, given their influence.