What Causes the Lack of Funding for Rejuvenation Research?

There isn't a great deal of funding for research into aging in comparison to the rest of medicine. It is greatly underfunded given its importance in biology, and this continues to be the case even after a decade or two of growing interest. Research into the manipulation of aging is a tiny field within aging research - most aging research is still a matter of gathering data. Lastly, research aimed at treating and reversing aging is a tiny fraction of work on manipulation of aging. The US National Institute on Aging has a $1 billion yearly budget, and might be a third of spending in the US on aging research; the SENS Research Foundation, which is arguably the only group managing research programs to realize plausible means of rejuvenation, has a yearly budget of $3 million.

This is what entrepreneurs, ever optimistic, call "a growth opportunity." Astronomical budgets are dedicated to medicine, merely vast budgets for amassing information about aging, and infinitesimal budgets are all that is presently available to stop the suffering, pain, death, and expense caused by aging. Rejuvenation research must grow if we are to see significant progress before we age to death.

Why is the budget for rejuvenation research tiny? My intuitive response to that is that is a combination of (a) that it has only recently become plausible to work on building therapies capable of rejuvenation, somewhere within the last 20 years, (b) few people know anything about the science that supports the plausibility of treating and reversing aging, and (c) few people care enough about living longer to do anything about it. Plus I might argue that the "anti-aging" marketplace sidetracks people into useless activities, while aggressively spreading misinformation about how we might go about extending life.

I noticed a post at Immortal Life that argues slightly differently: the root of not having enough funding is that we are failing to raise it. That we are bad at advocacy, or at least insufficient in numbers, and need to become better. It's an interesting position: are we terrible advocates by virtue of not having achieved the sweeping gains that, say, the AIDS advocacy community managed in a few short years in the 1980s? Or are we acceptably good at what we do but still early in the game - where the trajectory is more like that of the decades preceding the establishment of today's massive cancer research establishment?

Radical Life Extension's Problem isn't Lack of Funding - it's Weak Advocacy

When asked what the biggest bottleneck for Radical or Indefinite Longevity is, most thinkers say funding. Some say the biggest bottleneck is breakthroughs and others say it's our way of approaching the problem (i.e. seeking healthy life extension as opposed to more comprehensive methods of indefinite life-extension), but the majority seem to feel that what is really needed is adequate funding to plug away at developing and experimentally-verifying the various, sometimes mutually-exclusive technologies and methodologies that have already been proposed. I claim that Radical Longevity's biggest bottleneck is not funding, but advocacy.

This is because the final objective of increased funding for Radical Longevity and Life Extension research can be more effectively and efficiently achieved through public advocacy for Radical Life Extension than it can by direct funding or direct research, per unit of time or effort. Research and development obviously still need to be done, but an increase in researchers needs an increase in funding, and an increase in funding needs an increase in the public perception of RLE's feasibility and desirability.

There is no definitive timespan that it will take to achieve indefinitely-extended life. How long it takes to achieve Radical Longevity is determined by how hard we work at it and how much effort we put into it. More effort means that it will be achieved sooner. And by and large, an increase in effort can be best achieved by an increase in funding, and an increase in funding can be best achieved by an increase in public advocacy. You will likely accelerate the development of Indefinitely-Extended Life, per unit of time or effort, by advocating the desirability, ethicacy and technical feasibility of longer life than you will by doing direct research, or by working towards the objective of directly contributing funds to RLE projects and research initiatives.

I'd qualify that last point by suggesting that an hour of advocacy is only better than giving an hour of your wages to the SENS Research Foundation if that hour of advocacy actually results in more money showing up for SENS projects. I believe I'm still ahead of the game by that measure, but I'm nowhere near as certain of that as I'd like to be. It really does all come down to money at this precise point in time, now that there exists an established rejuvenation research program that can soak up many more millions of dollars with ease. With enough money the next five to ten years will produce such amazing results in the laboratory that using research to generate publicity looks like a better option than using publicity to generate funds for research.

But of course no-one is going to turn down publicity-generated funds should someone figure out how to make that work well in the intervening time. Over the long haul, it is the case that publicity and science have to move together, it's just here and now that resources for research look to have a better value than resources for publicity.

As an aside, and while we're on the subject of money, Immortal Life appears to be run by the same folk who managed Transhumanity.net before it was transferred to the Zero State initiative. The site as a whole illustrates why it's hard to build a for-profit single topic site for radical life extension: there is no technology available today that can achieve that goal, so the only legitimate flow of money is towards research. Everyone in the interested marketplaces that might pay the site owner to run ads or ads-disguised-as-content are in the business of selling dreams, lies, and other things that don't really matter. So if you focus on money, you end up slipping away from the ongoing research that matters and towards supplement pills and other dead ends. This, at least, has been the historical and ongoing outcome of these efforts - but that doesn't mean that it always must be. There are, after all, reputable general interest futurist sites, so you'd think there are some methodologies that might work without having to become a shill for the "anti-aging" market and supplement sellers. I'm just appropriately skeptical, given the past.

Comments

My two cents (writing from places where typing us hard)

1. This is basic scientific research. Not commercial research. You need attract those interested in the greater good bc the benefits of the research are too abstract for the non scientist business leaning person to believe or understand.

2. So far since I stumbled upon this area, many of the personality types who seem drawn to the ideas are Libertarian types and that clouds the discussion from being non ideological to sounding like exploitation for personal gain. You need to convince people on the left and center. Not just peopke who think like you. You need to grow consensus and move the Overton window. This is true bc libertarian types may fund some research but most will not see life from that perspective.

Personally as a leftist with a background in science I can tell you I find the responses to the social implications to be nightmarish even if I think the science actually would be worthy of pursuit

I've seen comments like yes the wealthy will take advantage and the poor will lose out in discussion boards, and all I can think is clearly those interested don't get it.

3 most people don't have the scientific imagination to see beyond now regardless if political views

The dilemma is that people will believe you when there us proof but there can be no proof until you gai funding to conduct research

This is expecting too much

Most people including scientists are myopic

This is why the ideological stuff is extremely destructive to the scientific questions

4 its your job to sell the idea

It's not reasonable to expect others to buy what you say

For example the shift from longevity to health span was smart bc it shows a focus on buy I rather than remaining in a bubble

Why

Bc most do not have the imagination to realize you mean healthy lives so making that explicit is smart and it takes the focus off imagery of snakeoil and magic potions

Posted by: Kismet at May 29th, 2013 9:35 PM

I think there's a more pernicious obstacle to anti-aging research.

I think that elite opinion is not only opposed to rejuvenation technologies but is even skeptical of extending the old, slow improvement in life expectancy to the general population.

From a libertarian perspective, of course, this would never be an issue. But needless to say, our medical system is not libertarian. Given this fact, it matters that elites in the West are at once in favor of a. increased public control of health care and b. in favor of reducing the rate of discovery of new medical technologies, surgerical options, and drugs insofar as these are more expensive than older alternatives.

But I think it goes beyond the question of expense. When you hear people like Ezekiel Emmanuel it becomes apparent that they fundamentally do not identify with the majority of people. They don't care if most Americans will die sooner as a result of their hamfisted regulations. In fact, reading between the lines, they delight at this prospect.

And it needs to be said, that these same political elites, while not enjoying the life extension offered by people like Aubrey de Grey, do tend to live much longer than the rest of the population of the industrialized world.

For this reason, I fear that nothing save a political revolution can spur on the development of rejuvenation biotech such as that pursued by SENS.

Posted by: Therapsid at May 30th, 2013 12:34 AM

Like I said you sound like ideologues rather than interested in science,which means your appeal is harmed

Your ideological beliefs shouldn't even enter the picture bc they are non sequitur and a turn off

There is no regulation preventing private sector funding of basic research

You are really complaining that the public sector will not fund the research bc otherwise the analysis about regulation makes little practical sense when it comes to financing cell and animal research

You want to provide proof of concept at this point, which as Grey smartly states as drmonstrating therapies will Reduce disease and longevity becomes the potential side effect

That's why Grey mentions thr importance of mice studies

There is nothing wrong with that

But if you want public dollars then stop whining and learn to dance with what brung you

Most of the public , not just the FDA, isn't interested in this research not bc of the elite but bc they are concerned with the harm that may be caused by medical reseach that dies not take proper precaution

They know the story of Frankenstein and many are fairly aware of botched science

Eg before current gene therapy success there were bumps in the road to safety

You may not ideologically like that but that has nothing to do with the science and making the case within the concerns that the public has

It's not about convincing the 2 percent of the population that votes Libertarian

Not is it about ideology at all

Because even if you were right you still got to convince people who disagree with you to fund research

In other areas where people actually want to invest, investors find ways around regulations they don't like

The problem is you aren't make your case othe than to your own narrow circle

Posted by: Kismet at May 30th, 2013 1:22 AM

Raising capital starts by increasing mass-appeal for one's endeavor. This is catapulted by creating general awareness of the concept, and, realizing that it is all a numbers game- a percentage will hate you, a percentage will support you, and of that supporting percentage, a certain number will want to invest.

What I see lacking is an outlet to reach more impulsive demographics who are more impressionable, thoughtful, and optimistic. This is the younger generation. Sure, they don't have deep pockets to the degree a more mature audience might, nor will they be able to analyze data to the extent a group of seasoned scientists would. That aside, they are far from stupid, often catching the big picture more easily than those caught up in details(which often comes from the complexities of thought that manifest as we grow chronologically wiser).

So, what is the solution? Entertainment. People follow entertainment, as does money. SENS needs to attach celebrities to their cause, acting as global mouthpieces. Legions of fans will follow as will the deep-pocketed celebrity peers. No one wants to die, nor do they want their heroes to die. Very few will believe in solutions unless such solutions are announced by public figures. When these icons lead the masses to the research and the seminars, while voicing their concern(not to mention asking fans for their help), money will trickle in and rumor will spread, leading to more and more funding for what just might be the ultimate cause.

Posted by: Adam at May 30th, 2013 7:26 AM

While technically, lack of advocacy may be the problem, that's really a useless observation because 1) we already knew that, and 2) we can generate publicity faster by doing meaningful research instead of advocating.

The question isn't whether or not we need advocacy. The question is what way is the most effective, and I have bet my dollars on what I consider the most promising research in the pipeline.

The other thing to consider is the cost effectiveness. A month of work might generate a few thousand dollars; a month of ground pounding might generate a hundred, simply because the public isn't ready. They need something more solid to believe in.

Posted by: Dennis Towne at May 30th, 2013 8:32 AM

Quick to criticize, yet no solution? You have uselessly observed another's useless observation. Brilliant!

Posted by: Adam at May 30th, 2013 10:42 AM

I do not think the public will ever get behind SENS - it's just to big and complicated a task to comprehend. If SENS was sold to the public in small pieces and there was some actual work in mice showing success in those pieces then funding may start to come. But the things that will catch the public attention are the parts of SENS that bring every day improvements in the short term such as better mobility in old age, younger looking skin, improving muscle mass/tone and improved sexual function. Those are what people spend billions on every year and if SENS has any hope it has to first start offering some short-term benefits in order to get people hooked on the full anti-aging escape-velocity bandwagon.

SENS has to somehow start getting results that people want today - it's no use saying we can beat aging in a few decades - nobody believes it - but if you say SENS will within a decade have the power to make people look 20 years younger then you have a realistic selling point. So what ever part of SENS deals with the age of skin cells, that is likely the most lucrative and best point to focus on - with so little money its seems pointless to focus elsewhere.

I think SENS aims as they stand now are just way to early, decades to early - first there needed to be some actual real drug/therapy that started to slow some aspect of what the public perceive as aging - then a decade or so later, once the public realizes some parts of aging can be slowed/reversed (ie skin), then and only then can you spring on them the possibility that aging itself can be halted.

Posted by: Geoff at May 30th, 2013 10:42 AM

I agree with Geoff but think proof of concept would go along way with the scientific community

The people who are asking for solutions don't get it

You are already being given solutions

What worries you is time

Posted by: Kismet at May 30th, 2013 11:03 AM

I also agree with Geoff, and I'd like to point out that we may already have what you are looking for. Baati et al. published a paper in 2012 reporting a heretofore unheard of degree of life extension in Wistar rats as a result of oral dosing of a c60 olive oil adduct. There are now thousands of people throughout the world using this compound, which can be purchased from several vendors or can be made at home quite easily. The results we are seeing are consistent with it being a potent mitochondrial antioxidant. In certain disease states, as well as in athletic endeavors, those results are non-trivial. Within the Longecity community, there are two very small scale animal experiments ongoing, and we are working on getting a large rat experiment up and running.

Can you imagine what the public response would be to a convincing demonstration of a 90% increase in rat lifespan? If they are shown that lifespan is that malleable, perhaps they will stop thinking that it's impossible to do anything about human lifespan. Perhaps they would be more open to research funding? C60-olive oil looks like it's going to be the best tool yet to get the public interested in serious LE/rejuvenation research.

So, do you REALLY want to do something to advance extreme LE? Stop ignoring Baati et al. and the human results being discussed in the c60health forum at longecity. This stuff is real. This time, it isn't snake oil. Maybe someone reading this could help with an animal experiment? PM me at longecity if interested.

Best Regards,

niner

Posted by: niner at June 7th, 2013 7:37 PM

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