How Would You Spend Millions of Dollars on Longevity Science?

In the fantasy land where you have control over a large sum of money, millions or tens of millions of dollars, how would you spend it to best advance the state of longevity science - to bring forward the age of greatly extended healthy human lives? You can't take it with you, after all. In this life, the only rational use for large sums of money is longevity science; all else is fleeting and soon enough dust and ashes.

A hundred years ago, additional time was a limited commodity. You could spend resources to have a little more of it - doctors, a good life, the learning needed to take advantage of these items - but after a certain point there was no amount you could spend that would let you live for even one additional day. This is no longer the case. A sufficiently massive directed research program could, for example, realize the SENS program for rejuvenation within a couple of decades, to produce the planned and presently understood methods for repairing the biochemical and cellular damage that causes aging.

So what would you spend your fantasy millions on? How would you invest in research? This question is something of a litmus test: you can't answer it without sharing your opinions on what is important and what is not in present day aging science, related biotechnologies, and strategies for application or commercialization.

I see that Maria Konovalenko has thoughts on this topic:

4. Research in increasing cryoprotectors efficacy - $3 million
5. Creation and realization of a program 'Regulation of epigenome' - $5 million
6. Creation, promotion and lobbying of the program on research and fighting aging - $2 million
7. Educational programs in the fields of biogerontology, neuromodelling, regenerative medicine, engineered organs - $1.5 million
8. 'Artificial blood' project - $2 million
9. Grants for authors, script writers, and art representatives for creation of pieces promoting transhumanism - $0.5 million
10. SENS Foundation project of removing senescent cells - $2 million

Now for my part I think what is most needed today is a demonstrated success in the application of SENS research. Something that works to extend life in mice by repairing one of the forms of biochemical damage catalogued by Aubrey de Grey, and that we can all point to as an example of how longevity science should be done - a magnet for future fundraising, and validation for repair-based approaches to human longevity in the eyes of people yet to be convinced.

So, given that, I wouldn't spread my non-existent large sum of money around between many different classes of project. I put it all into one of the SENS research themes most likely to achieve a good result soon. For $30 million, I'd probably go for biomedical remediation of the unwanted biochemicals that build up and degrade our metabolism. A great deal of this work is discovery: sifting soil for microbes that can digest the gunk that our bodies cannot break down, and then performing many, many low-cost chemical tests in parallel to find useful bacterial enzymes. $30 million will buy you coverage of a large swath of the possible search space, followed by tests in aged mice to demonstrate improvement in measurable biomarkers of health following treatment with the most promising candidates.

A working method of biomedical remediation that improved measures of mouse health by eliminating the build-up of otherwise persistent metabolic byproducts would be exactly a form of limited rejuvenation. That would be big news.


I am a 3rd year undergraduate and plan to embark on an ageing research career. I have an ensured a relevant PhD position, however perhaps aiding others interested in such a path by, for example, providing and awarding PhD and post-doctoral scholarships/funding for ageing research, would be a good idea.

Posted by: Georgeloy at November 22nd, 2010 3:35 AM

You raised a very important issue - whether to put all the money into a single project, or to split it and dedicate to a number of projects.

You chose the soil bacteria project as the one to spend all the money on, but in my opinion the probability of success in terms of life extension of this particular project is not that high. I mean, we don't know if those bacteria are dangerous, if they would damage healthy cells, etc. What I'm tring to say is that the risk of loosing all the money, discriminating the topic and simply wasting a lot of time is huge.

On the other hand, spending portions of money on different projects can create a multiplication effect. These projects can work as firestarters and create interest, new results and potential donations.

If I were to choose a single project for $30 million I would put it into creation of a non-profit, a social organization that would promote life extension, lobby research and create the social mandate among the general public by providing the possibility to defend people's right to live.

Posted by: Maria Konovalenko at November 22nd, 2010 6:37 AM

@Maria Konovalenko: If we all agreed on everything, life would be very tedious. My point is more that the community needs a success in the scientific arena - opinions will differ as to which of the potential projects is the best option. Focusing on one project gives a chance of success, while spreading money between many projects will not allow for completion of any of them within the allotted (fantasy) budget.

Posted by: Reason at November 22nd, 2010 6:44 AM

I've heard that some of the eusocial insect queens exhibit negligible senescence for several decades and have sudden deaths. Their brethren have short lifespans and appear to age. It would be interesting to verify this, and what epigenetic changes are enacted to provide over an order of magnitude lifespan increase with what seems like a very high metabolism, seeming agelessness and unworldly reproductive vigor.

So If I had the money I'd sequence some of these species, and have an extensive research program in to what seems to be a series of changes bestowing apparent agelessness.

Posted by: Flash Program at November 22nd, 2010 1:58 PM

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