Thinking for the Long Haul

When looking at a goal of research and development programs that could stretch across two decades or longer, such as those proposed to repair aging in the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) outline, you have to settle in for the long haul. Fundraising and advocacy is important in the here and now - if you don't get started, you don't get started - but you have to think for the long haul.

In the broader research community, thinking for the long haul means setting out to build a community of interested, networked researchers. It also means culturing the students who will be researchers of note five or ten years from now. This is one of the goals of the Methuselah Foundation's Undergraduate Research Initiative: it's not just that talented students can help accomplish early SENS research, but it's also a means of teaching the researchers of tomorrow to look at aging as an engineering problem. Some of those students will be a part of the research community working to repair aging in 2015 or 2020. Some will start biotech companies in the years ahead, or contribute their own novel research to the fundamental challenges of reversing the biochemical changes of aging.

On the topic of building a community of existing researchers interested in reversing aging, the next SENS conference to be held later this year is presently open for registration. The SENS conference series of past years have gone a long way to demonstrating the scientific legitimacy of work to repair and reverse the effects of aging. Take a look at the videos of SENS3 presentations, for example, as an exhibit of just how plausible a project this all is.

The real challenge is people, not technology: it's the long bootstrapping process of any new paradigm. You must convince the public and funding sources to support this work, at the same time as providing a continuing stream of supporting research achievements, and growing the research community. If enough people become interested, then the work will be done - and it is just a matter of getting the work done. The science is about as clear as these things can ever be: we know more than enough to get started on work to repair aging.

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