As I'm sure you're aware, the Methuselah Foundation recently split in two, continuing separately as the Methuselah Foundation and SENS Foundation. The new Methuselah Foundation is focused on the Mprize for longevity science, while the SENS Foundation focuses on funding research and growth in the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, a research program aimed at greatly extending healthy human life. Both sides of the house continue to support one another's goals, and there's an overlap in volunteers, as you might expect.
As the Foundations take pains to point out, if you were donating to the Methuselah Foundation to fund SENS Research, your money will pass through to the SENS Foundation and continue to support that goal.
So, what are the roots of this change? I can't speak to the mindset of the co-founders of the original Methuselah Foundation, Dave Gobel and Aubrey de Grey, despite the volunteer work I perform here and there for the Methuselah Foundation, but I can offer my semi-outsider's opinion based on a few days of thinking about it. It runs something like this:
- Back a few years, it seemed self-evident that the Mprize and SENS Research were synergistic programs for a single organization to operate, the growth of each boosting the other. Advocacy and encouragement for scientific research into extending healthy life on the one hand, and a specific research program aimed at doing just that on the other hand. That sounded sensible. It still sounds sensible.
- As it turned out, it didn't work that way in practice, however. The people and strategies best employed on the two sides of the house were different and really didn't operate in synergy. Instead of an engine, you have something more like a gentle tug of war on resources and goals.
- This is probably best illustrated at the present time by looking at the founders and board of the SENS Foundation versus who's who and the Mprize advisory board at the Methuselah Foundation. You'll see different circles of people with different backgrounds, career paths, and talents. Quite dissimilar.
So now we'll see two organizations heading in the directions they feel most comfortable taking for success. There are signs that the Methuselah Foundation is looking to tap new communities for its pro-longevity advocacy, for example, aiming to grow the healthy life extension community via a more populist approach than was employed in the past. I'm not sure how I feel about the first initiative, the My Bridge 4 Life program - it's too far from my target demographic in a number of ways for me to get a grasp on it - but the high level strategy seems worth trying.
The trick with the populist and indirect strategies, of course, is to avoid falling into the same sort of pit as ensnared American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) or the Life Extension Foundation. I can vouch for the fact that the principles of those organizations are greatly interested in seeing a world of working rejuvenation medicine come to pass - but they now spend most of their time in the operation of organizations that contribute little to that goal. You get things done by getting things done. If you're not working on A, you're not working on A, even if you're working on B that is related to A.
The future of the SENS Foundation looks much like the recent past of the pre-split Methuselah Foundation: conferences (such as the forthcoming SENS4), longevity research, fundraising, and as much advocacy within the scientific community as outside it.
So on the whole, I am optimistic. People unleashed to do as they want to do tend to get more done, and the split looks like a sensible choice. I look forward to seeing what the two Foundations come up with in the years ahead.