Peter Thiel Gives Us All a $6 Million Challenge

As I'm sure you folk have already noted, the multitalented and quite wealthy Peter Thiel has stepped up to make a difference to the course of serious anti-aging research:

Mr. Thiel will donate a total of $500,000 over the next three years to fund pilot research projects intended to deliver early stage validation of the "SENS" approach to combating the debilitation caused by aging.

Additionally, from now until the end of 2009, Mr. Thiel promises to match every Dollar donated to the Methuselah Foundation for SENS research with a 50 cent matching contribution from himself, up to a maximum of $3 Million of matching funds.

All good investments align and reinforce interests and incentives on both sides. The Methuselah Foundation has made great progress since its launch in 2003, but now the Foundation, its volunteers, donors and supports must prove they can grow into the big leagues. The Foundation has raised more than $3.5 million in pledges in the past couple of years, for both initially modest research and the MPrize to inspire others to follow suit, but much more funding is needed as a lever with which to move the world. We want to see a cure for aging, and meaningful therapies for the root causes of aging rapidly enough to help those reading this now. Ambitious goals require ambitious resource allocation.

Thiel has given us, all of us, a worthy challenge: raise $6 million in 3 years for Aubrey de Grey's Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) research and he will match that with a further $3 million. That level of funding would place SENS research on a par with the new Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Biological Mechanisms of Aging. in other words, an organization capable of shaping the application of billions of dollars of medical research funding - and the opinions and work of tens of thousands of the most important scientists in relevant fields - in the years ahead simply by the merits of its existence.

The challenge to raise funding is a proxy for the challenge to prove your cause worthy and likely to succeed. To raise $6 million from the philanthropic community, you need compelling science that stands up to peer review, widespread support, a strong message, and the organizational success gene - the people who build a community to make it work.

With that in mind, I think we all should take a moment to congratulate the energetic and dedicated volunteers of the Methuselah Foundation. These folk have shaped and guided this vehicle all the way its present success - at their own expense, and giving time and effort far beyond the call of duty. I'd be out here plugging away and on message, Methuselah Foundation or no Methuselah Foundation, but the folk behind the scenes have given a great deal more expertise and time than I. Congratulations all, and thank you for making this work.

All who have donated to the Foundation have helped to create a organization that is now successfully penetrating the philanthropist demographic and raising seven-figure sums.

Resources for research must come from somewhere if we are to escape our fate of suffering and death by aging. We must explain our goal; educate the public; raise widespread support; motivate the scientific community. We have made good, strong progress in the past few years - but a long road lies ahead. As a community, we have yet to successfully engage and persuade the wealthiest and most conservative of philanthropists, seeking support for modern, aggressive bioengineering approaches to the problem of age-related degeneration.

We can do this. We must do this. Too many lives, too much suffering is at stake to fail.

We should all be proud of ourselves - briefly, and then turn to the challenge ahead. Thiel is well-respected as a shrewd investor in the venture funding and philanthropic communities, and that he stands openly in support of the Methuselah Foundation will open many doors. We can all help the Foundation rise to the $6 million fundraising challenge by spreading the word far and wide - and by continuing to show that funding by serious anti-aging research has widespread grassroots support.

Donate to fund SENS research today and Peter Thiel's dollars stand beside yours in support of far longer, healthier lives for all. That's a chance not to miss!

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