Some news from the Methuselah Foundation arrived in my in-box today. The Foundation started a decade ago with the Methuselah Mouse Prize, or Mprize, a research prize for longevity science, and conducted the SENS rejuvenation research program before that initiative grew to need its own organization, the SENS Research Foundation. In the past few years Methuselah Foundation staff and volunteers have focused more on the tissue engineering side of longevity science: the Foundation is among the early investors in bioprinting company Organovo and runs the New Organ Prize, aiming to build a large enough crowdfunded research prize and community to speed the advent of complete functional replacement organs built from a patient's own cells.
Here's the latest update:
Here at Methuselah, we've been keeping busy over the last few months, and we have a lot of good news to share.
First, there's the official launch of our new partnership with Organovo to seed several of their 3D bioprinters into select university and medical research labs. We've also recently awarded two new grants to fund DNA sequencing research, both of which promise to advance the science of longevity. And last but not least, in order to finalize rules and structures for the launch of the New Organ Prize this winter, we've started working closely with the Institute of Competition Sciences, an organization focused around competition-based innovation that has previously worked with XPRIZE and NASA.
A New Partnership with Organovo
Organovo, a breakthrough biotech company that Methuselah has backed since its inception, continues to grow quickly. It was recently uplisted to the New York Stock Exchange (ONVO), and we're so optimistic about the potential impacts of its 3D tissue printing technology on cutting-edge biomedical research, we initiated a new partnership to help get more Organovo printers into prominent labs.
Under this program, Methuselah will donate at least $500,000 in direct funding for bioprinter research projects, to be divided among several institutions. This funding will cover budgeted bioprinter costs, as well as other aspects of project execution. Organovo will participate in selecting the best candidate institutions from all those that apply, and funding will commence as soon as selection is complete.
According to Organovo CEO Keith Murphy, "Organovo's technology has broad potential application in the life sciences. The opportunity to allow those working towards significant breakthroughs in organ bioprinting to use the NovoGen MMX bioprinter is exciting, and we're happy to be able to establish this joint effort with Methuselah Foundation to enable greater access to Organovo's powerful platform."
One expected outcome from the program is a greater set of preliminary results to justify the granting of additional government research grants in the 3D bioprinting space. Together, Methuselah and Organovo are confident that this can become a springboard for much broader productive use of bioprinting in regenerative medicine.
Two Grants for Promising Genetic Research
Given the declining costs of DNA sequencing, all kinds of research that used to be prohibitively expensive even a few years ago is now becoming possible, and we've been considering how best to take advantage of this. For example, we just awarded a $10,000 research grant to Dr. Joao Pedro de Magelhaes at the University of Liverpool to sequence the genome of the bowhead whale in order to study mechanisms for longevity in this warm-blooded mammal whose lifespan is estimated at over 200 years.
Not only are bowhead whales far longer-lived than humans, but their massive size means that they are likely to possess unique tumor suppression mechanisms. "These mechanisms for the longevity and resistance to aging-related diseases of bowhead whales are unknown," says Dr. de Magelhaes, "but it is clear that in order to live so long, these animals must possess aging prevention mechanisms related to cancer, immunosenescence, neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases."
The bowhead whale study will be conducted at the state-of-the-art Liverpool Centre for Genomic Research, and results will be made available to the research community.
In July, Methuselah also awarded $5,000 to Dr. L. Stephen Coles, co-founder and Executive Director of the Gerontology Research Group and a prominent researcher on supercentenarians (people aged at least 110). This grant, in support of Dr. Coles's own pancreatic cancer treatment, will also provide for an accompanying study of new methods of personalized gene sequencing and pre-testing of potential chemotherapy courses in immunodeficient mouse models. The research is being carried out under the auspices of Champions Oncology of Baltimore, MD, and promises to shed light on the efficacy of individual DNA sequencing in guaranteeing effective chemotherapy outcomes for cancer patients.
Developing the New Organ Prize
The Institute of Competition Sciences, an exciting young organization dedicated to organizing the knowledge base of the prize competition industry, is "building a community of leaders and providing the resources they need for impactful, competition-based innovation." We're proud to now be working closely with the ICS team, alongside our growing body of illustrious scientific advisors, in structuring a New Organ Prize that will powerfully accelerate the field of tissue engineering in order to help solve the global organ crisis.
We're currently seeking feedback on our draft prize rules from experts in the fields of regenerative medicine, stem-cell science, and tissue engineering, and we'd like to invite you to submit your input as well in order to help ensure that New Organ's prize criteria, judging process, and award structure are as effective and impactful as possible.
To participate in this public comment period for the New Organ Prize, which runs through September 19, 2013, just complete our online questionnaire. And make sure to stay tuned for more information over the next few months as prize rules are finalized and we build toward our public launch this winter!
And as always, thank you for your continued interest in - and generous support of - the Methuselah Foundation. We couldn't do it without you!