Time flies: it doesn't seem as though more than two years have passed since entrepreneur turned fund manager Peter Thiel made a $3 million matching pledge to the Methuselah Foundation. Every two dollars of a donation to Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) research aimed at repairing the damage of aging and reversing its effects draws an additional dollar from this matching fund.
Over that time, $1.3 million have been drawn from the fund, boosting the $2.6 million raised for research. That leaves another $1.7 million to go - and a little under 12 months until this matching pledge expires. Three years seems an eternity when it's ahead of you, but when you're done you wonder where it went so quickly.
Thanks to solid fundraising over the years of its existence, the Methuselah Foundation has made a real impact on the course of longevity research. First by influencing the debate within the aging community, engaging the public, and helping to change a stagnant research culture in which no-one could talk about engineering additional longevity without risking their funding. Secondly, through funding SENS research aimed at repairing the known biochemical damage that causes aging and age-related disease. Thirdly, and this is a project for the long term, building a community of younger researchers, the gerontologists of tomorrow, who are very interested in the fastest possible path to reversing aging.
If you want something done, it's not enough to agitate for it, and its not enough to have the money. You also need a community of workers. Over a timespan of, say, twenty years, I think we'll see many growing bootstrap efforts like the Methuselah Foundation that merge advocacy, fundraising, and cultivation of a research community. This is how a field of research moves from the ideas of a few people to become a self-sustaining culture that gets the job done.
These are still early days in the grand scheme of things, but that's no reason to let things go at their own pace. Here is a great opportunity to help move things along: push a few dollars in the direction of SENS research and help polish off Peter Thiel's matching fund this year.