A perennial complaint in biogerontology, and one whose legitimacy I would be the last to dispute, is that public funding for ageing research is far lower than it should be. Such funding has roughly kept pace with biomedical research spending as a whole, but much more is warranted because postponement of ageing would have a far greater impact on public health and healthcare spending than postponement of any or all of the major age-related diseases. Here, I discuss whether our obstinately modest funding is due, as most of my biogerontologist colleagues evidently feel, to a failure on our part to communicate the scientific and biomedical realities to our political paymasters, and is therefore best rectified by continuing to repeat the arguments we have used for decades until they sink in. I argue that it is instead because those arguments are genuinely weak. I then discuss whether our neglect of more effective justifications for greater investment in biogerontology research is because we overlook key components of the trade-offs that determine funding policy, or whether the problem is the failure of most biogerontologists to maintain an open mind concerning the scientific options. I conclude that it is for both those reasons. Thus, our field is passing up the opportunity to elevate itself to its rightful level of public appreciation and investment, with the result that much longer healthy lives are being denied those who will die before 'real anti-ageing medicine' arrives unless we start working harder towards it now.
As usual, Aubrey de Grey goes on to make detailed points and suggestions - many of which will be familiar to those who have read his past thoughts on the topic. He has made a convincing scientific case that - with adequate funding, public support and directed research programs - the research community knows enough to get started and is within decades of technologies that can greatly extend the healthy human life span. New medicine to address the root causes of degenerative aging would greatly reduce the staggering ongoing toll of suffering, disease and death that claims tens of millions each year.
The scientific path ahead towards healthy life extension technologies is as clear as the future of science ever gets. The problems all lie in matters of funding, scientific and public support and understanding. This is why activism, advocacy and education are vitally important, both within and without the scientific community.