Return on Investment for Medical Research

The Scientist looks at return on investment for research - especially medical and biotechnology research - and misses the point. We're not in a gentle race to an ephemeral crown with other demographic groups overseas. Rather, we're in a nail-biting contest to defeat disease, degeneration and aging, amidst an ongoing tsunami of death that dwarfs any other cause of misery in the world. The sheer scale of economic devastation suffered daily, monthly and yearly due to aging is hard to visualize; as Robert Freitas notes, "the worldwide natural death toll of 52 million people in the Year 2001 represents an economic loss of about $100 trillion dollars. Every year. How big of an economic calamity is this? Taking Federal Reserve figures for the total tangible wealth of the United States, including all financial assets, all real estate, and all consumer durables, net of debt, and applying the ratio of U.S. to world GDP gives us an estimate of total global tangible net worth of $91 trillion dollars. So this means that every year, natural death robs us of human capital equivalent in value to the entire tangible wealth of the world." Nations have mobilized to oppose economic damage a fraction of this value. No practically attained level of resources directed towards the fight to defeat aging could ever be said to be sufficient.


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