An Open Cures Progress Report

Open Cures is an initiative aimed at speeding up progress along the best and most logical path for commercial development of demonstrated longevity-enhancing biotechnologies. Which is to say that they should be developed overseas, outside the reach of the FDA, and then accessed via medical tourism - just like all the cutting edge medical technologies that are available only outside the US, thanks to massive regulatory overkill.

Open Cures kicked off in earnest in May 2011, so this is still very much the stage of telling people about the idea and letting the community of potential supporters know that the initiative even exists. One part of that effort is a series of essays, the latest of which was published at h+ Magazine today under the title "Longevity Science Needs Documentation". Open Cures is a phased initiative, and the article is a deeper look at why Phase 1 of Open Cures involves the production of documentation - pulling out the best and most promising of present biotechnologies of longevity buried in research papers, and producing textbook quality how-to documents that are comprehensible to people who are not cutting edge researchers:

One of the challenging attitudes I've encountered of late is the idea that documentation of longevity science in this manner is largely worthless - that time and funds spent trying to make science clear to developers and laypeople should go towards other, more direct activities like further research. This sort of criticism is, I think, symptomatic of a failure to understand the necessary role of documentation in the broader scope of technological progress. This article, then, is an answer of sorts: what is the role of documentation, and why is it important enough to need dedicated organizations that do it well?

Read the whole thing, as the answer to that question isn't easily summarized in a single sentence - and that in and of itself is actually a part of the challenge. Complex ideas are hard to convey, and that fact places constraints on support for new technologies.

On the topic of producing documentation, you can see some of the early work in the Open Cures Wiki, such as a protocol outline for DIYbio participation in LysoSENS, and a similar protocol outline for mitochondrial protofection. For reference, a protocol is the name given to the step by step directions followed by a researcher or technician when carrying out a procedure in the laboratory. Both of these sketch outlines provide only the technical bare bones of their respective protocols, but are presently being expanded into full protocol documents, with the aim of producing textbook-quality publications.

Over the past few weeks, I've been working through oDesk to contract with biologists and biochemists around the world to work on these and other documents. It's an interesting business, and the global competition largely keeps the rates at an appropriate level for a volunteer initiative, even for writing that is fairly technical. My goal for the next few months is to acquire a reliable stable of writers this way, though this and similar services, and produce the first few high-quality protocols documents in full.

This involves a fair degree of learning and working through the pitfalls - but it should settle the questions of price and feasibility. So far it looks like there are a sufficient number of life scientists out there on these global contracting sites, some of whom can write decently well in addition to knowing their field. Also so far it looks like my initial guesses at the cost of producing documentation is not a million miles away from the reality - we'll see if that still holds once I'm into the next stage of finding artists to produce the necessary diagrams where openly available versions cannot be found.

In working with biologists scattered around the world, I've been greatly aided by those Open Cures volunteers willing to review and comment on works in progress. Many hands make light work, and while I've followed biotechnology for a number of years, I'm far from qualified to judge the contents of a protocol as accurate or not. I should also note that along the way, some other folk are also looking into producing informational documents on the state of medical tourism by country, and an early example of that sort of thing can also be found in the wiki.

Once this first stage of the first stage of the way and the Open Cures group has a set of completed protocols and writers ready to go, then it will be time to open things up to run a little faster: make the big list of documentation we'd like to have done in Phase 1, and push it into the sausage-making process of technical writing just as fast as it will go. That's about when I'll probably start soliciting funds and doing the rounds with cap in hand, but we'll see how that turns out.

The ability to use funding in and of itself requires some organization to set up: there's the legal side of the house, management and paperwork, and getting into the process to become a formally registered 501c3 charity. Fortunately some of the folk in the community are willing to help out on that front - it's "just" a matter of more time and energy put in that direction. Postponing it while the first stage of documentation is underway doesn't hurt, and in many ways it's better to put off the legal formalization of an initiative until you're sure that there's something there and that it's working the way you want it to.

So that's where things stand at the moment. Very early days yet, and lot yet to be accomplished.

Comments

Wouldn't several of these protocols be outside of FDA regulation, but only AMA? Not that the FDA wouldn't try to get involved, as it has proved with stem cells.

Posted by: Hervé Musseau at July 15th, 2011 2:17 AM

The more we build desire for the dream, the more the dream builds itself. If people begin to think that, with more funding extreme, longevity will arrive in their lifetime, and they are due a change, then funding will arrive.

Posted by: Bode Bliss at July 18th, 2011 10:48 PM

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