For How Long Can a Desirable Goal Remain Cheap Without Being Aggressively Pursued?
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The costs of life science research are falling rapidly. What was expensive is now cheap: a few bright graduate studies and a small lab can accomplish in six months what would have required an entire institution and the better part of a decade in 1990. This means that, setting aside the incredible burden of regulation, prototyping a major new medical procedure or taking a therapy from theory to working result in laboratory animals has become cheap in comparison to many endeavors. It can cost considerably less to build a focused therapy given a strategy to work with than to construct the laboratory building in which the researchers work, for example - though it is true that the building will not take as long to assemble.

Degenerative aging in particular does not lack for a plan that can lead to effective therapies: the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS). The likely cost of following through from where we are now to demonstrating the collection of seven to ten different therapies needed to rejuvenate old mice is a billion dollars and a decade or two in which to spend it well. Today funding for these various lines of research runs at a bare few million a year, and a great deal of work and advocacy was required to reach that far.

A billion dollars at a rate of fifty to a hundred million a year is a large sum of money in one sense, but smaller than countless organized projects that take place in the wealthier regions of the world. How much longer can the earnest pursuit of rejuvenation continue to be within the easy grasp of an alliance of any dozen of the world's twelve hundred billionaires and yet not funded to any great level? If shared between such a group, the individual costs wouldn't come close to what these figures invest in order to achieve far less beneficial end goals.

Some similar sentiments can be found in a recent article:

If you make it real hot, real fast, the frog will jump out of the pot. But if you turn up the heat slowly, before the frog realizes it, it will be too late, and the frog slowly dies. As aging humans, we are all slowly (and some not so slowly) being boiled alive by the ravages of time. The world's 1,226 billionaires, like that ill-fated frog in the story above, are [also] slowly being boiled alive.

Why, then, aren't they, or at least several of them, stepping up to the plate and getting out of the slowly heating pot that will put an end to all that they now enjoy and have worked so successfully to achieve? After all, at least 215 of them have $5 billion or more, and we estimate we might solve aging for less than $5 billion total spread over the next 16-20 years.

Some billionaires actually get it and in fact have offered some funding. But none has made a major commitment as far as I know. And that's tragic - for them and for you.

For how long can a brass ring remain hanging unclaimed? The opportunity to build the basis for human rejuvenation biotechnology exists, yet there is no massively funded effort underway to reach that goal. For how long can this state of affairs continue?

Comments

This is a puzzle to me as well... for the vast majority of the world who can have little personal impact on their ultimate demise, a policy of denial makes sense. Don't obsess about something that you can't change.

For those billionaires... why aren't they investing?? This seems like such a clearly superior investment vehicle over all the other transitory options. Is it religion? Is it the social stigma? Is it the lack of knowledge? Or is it just complacence?

It's just incredible to me that someone can be smart / lucky enough to build a vast fortune, then not spend some of it on the single thing that matters most to keeping it: survival.

Posted by: S at January 16, 2013 9:37 PM

Continued developments in general biotechnology ought to reduce the price tag further over time. What costs $1 billion today ought to cost $100 million, if not less, 10 years from now. At some point the cost performance of biotech will improve to the point that curing aging becomes an exercise for DIY biotech people - in about 30 years from now.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at January 17, 2013 10:35 AM

I wholehardedly agree with this article. I would think that the rich people would have more reason to put a large % of their wealth into research in hopes of keeping their themselves alive as long as possible. For me, this falls in the "common sense" area.

If I could influence the outcome of living for an extended amount of time thus keeping control of my wealth, of course I would. It would be great if someone could "educate" these "billionaires/millionaires" to show them this wide screen picture of what is possible and how they can influance this so we would all benefit, and of course, certainly them. As they say, you can't take it with you.

Robert Church

Posted by: Robert Church at January 17, 2013 12:57 PM

I have several comments to make, and this post seems the most relevant. I wholeheartedly agree with Abelard - the accelerating trend of decreasing costs and open-sourced DIY collaboration will bring exponential returns in curing aging the closer we reach the "break even point". If you examine the quantity of advancement that occurs over any accelerating period, more happens in the last 20% of the remaining time, than the first 80% of time it took to get there.

Here are several gaping holes I'm currently seeing in the Life Extension community and their fund raising efforts. I would *love* to get a sit-down meeting with the leaders in this field, the Methuselah Board, and help move things along. I assumed they would have figured the following things out by now, but they haven't so now I, a relative nobody, feels compelled to get involved.

Proposals:

1) Crowdfunding - Currently dozens of simple projects are raising several million dollars each on places like Kickstarter. This guy raised over $10 million to make a simple "ePaper Watch" for Android phones. Link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android). If someone can raise 8 figures for something as simple as an Android watch, there is *absolutely no reason* why SENS cannot raise 9 figures for something that effects everyone - disease, aging, and death. Think about this - if 10 million people worldwide donated just $10 per year (the cost of going to lunch just once per year), that would bring $100 million per year to SENS research. People spend 20 times that on insurance each month. If nothing else, SENS should easily be able to raise more than a guy making an ePaper watch. Seriously folks. SENS hasn't raised this kind of money because they have a vision and marketing problem, which I'll now explain in my next proposal below.

2) Changing your Marketing and Mission Statements! This is so simple and obvious that I am truly astounded and disappointed that organizations like Methuselah have not figured this out yet. Follow my logic here. What percent of the population wants to live forever and is either aware of or actively involved in some way with radical life extension research? The answer is obvious - a lot less than 1%. Now what percent of the population wants to see a curing of at least one disease, or several? You figured out - over 90%! And that's being conservative. Think about this for a moment - over 90% of the population supports the curing of at least one disease - cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimers. SENS is *medical treatment* paradigm shift. So instead of marketing SENS as a cure for aging, sell it as a cure for disease. Go to medical conferences that are specialized in a particualar area and promote the SENS approach as the way to repair and fix the damage of that disease. If you can fix it, then you have cured it. As a precaution, don't mention aging at all!

3) Use existing fund raising groups. Example: Jerry Lewis' telethon for muscular dystrophy raised tens of millions of dollars each year to fight just one disease. Identify which of the 7-10 types of damage are involved in MS, put together a proposal of how to repair those types of damage, and present your research proposals directly to Jerry Lewis' foundation for grant funding. It's that simple.

Posted by: Paul Hughes at January 22, 2013 1:44 PM
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