The Cost of SENS

I misstated the projected research cost of Aubrey de Grey's Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) in a recent post. If we take a look at a breakdown of the proposed "Manhattan Project" to prototype all the technologies needed for radical life extension in mice and an interview at the Longevity Meme:

The type of work I hope the prize will encourage is late-onset interventions to repair or obviate accumulated molecular and cellular changes in already aged mice. This is the sort of research that is most relevant for human use. The seven treatments I mentioned earlier should, in combination, allow us to take two-year-old mice with a normal life expectancy of three years and make them live at least three more healthy years. This would certainly be something!

This goal should be possible within about 10 years with adequate funding, which I estimate at no more than US$100 million per year. Unlike the numbers for humans, I'm confident of this 10-year prediction because there are no arbitrarily hard problems to solve. In the case of human healthy life extension, safety matters mean that there are unknown levels of difficulty associated with research, particularly where it relates to gene therapy.

To translate work in mice to work in humans might require as much as ten times this level of funding - an educated guess at best, however. Regulatory hurdles for medical technology are onerous, and things always turn out to be more complicated than first anticipated. Still, $10 billion is a great deal of money if used wisely, and there is every reason to think that the scientific community could achieve radical life extension in humans when funded to this level.


Once SENS is accomplished in mice, there will be plenty of money that will flow into converting the SENS therapies into human therapies. Yes, safety is an issue and will take time, but most of the basic scientific work will be done. Also, effective gene therpy will probably be available for other medical conditions within 10 years, so this should not be as difficult issue as it is now.

Some of the seven deadly things may already be treatable by the time SENS is accomplished in mice. There is a new vaccine for alzhiemer's that works by eliminating the extracular junk that is responsible for the desease, which should be available in 10 years time. Also, ALT-711 and derivative treatments should be available by this time as well. That would cut the list down to five deadly things, which stem cell regeneration would take care of an additional one. Others may be curable by this time.

I agree with Aubry that curing cancer (at least by his proposed method) is going to be the most expensive, time-consumming aspect of SENS. Once it begins to sink into the minds of the cancer community that Aubry's approach is the only workable one, I think the cancer research organizations will begin to finance this research.

The key for FDA approval is to find a specific disease associated with each of the seven deadly things (for gycation its diabedes, for extracellular junk its alzheimers, etc.) and get these therapies approved for treating these diseases. That is, if by this time, the FDA persists in refusing to classify aging as a medical condition.

I think lobbying the FDA to classify aging as a disease state would be the more direct approach, or to lobby for the abolition of the FDA.

There are work-related, age discrimination lawsuits that can be used as the legal basis to get the FDA and medical establishment to classify aging as a disease.

Posted by: Kurt at October 3rd, 2004 12:15 PM

I think we can fight aging but we need a cure. I think aging is contagous. I think people are dieing from aging. I think aids, cancer, and the desease of aging and any other deaseas are all related. I think once we find the cure for one we have the cure for all. I think something is attacking our our body and our cells. This is seen in all deseases, colds, cancer, aids. I think we need the cures in less than ten years. I think building our immune system and recuperation will help. I think we also need to help young people. I think if we find the cure young people could stay young. I think aging can be the cause of other illnesses.

Posted by: Whitney at October 29th, 2006 4:50 PM
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