Ellison Medical Foundation to Cease Funding Aging Research

The Ellison Medical Foundation has for the past fifteen years or so acted much like an extension of the National Institute on Aging, channeling philanthropic funding from Larry Ellison into investigations of the biology of aging. This has been mainstream work with little to no involvement in efforts to extend life. The Ellison Medical Foundation didn't come about because Larry Ellison has any great interest in aging research, however: the interest was in furthering molecular biology, and the study of aging just happens to be a field in which a lot of cutting edge molecular biology takes place. By the sound of it the Foundation is moving on into a new phase of existence:

Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison's medical foundation - one of the leading funders for research on aging over the past 15 years - has stopped making new grants and may shift its focus beyond medical research. In all, the Ellison Medical Foundation has awarded nearly $430 million in grants since its founding in late 1997. Perhaps 80 percent to 90 percent of that money went to aging researchers.

The foundation is not endowed by Ellison. Instead, Ellison varies his annual gift to the foundation, which this year will fund $53 million in new and continuing grants, the bulk of those for aging research projects. Already-awarded grants will continue to be funded, but the foundation will not make new awards. "There are some other activities planned for the foundation. It may be broader and outside the medical research sphere - not to say medical research wouldn't be a component."

The foundation's pullback from aging research is particularly perplexing, given the entrance of Calico, which is led by former Genentech Inc. chief Art Levinson, and the attention that Google's involvement has brought to the field of aging research. Some researchers have said that Calico's entré would give private foundation grants more oomph and attract other funders.

Link: http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/blog/biotech/2013/12/larry-ellison-foundation-aging-calico.html?page=all

Comments

Ellison's foundation never accomplished much anyways. This is no big deal as far as I'm concerned.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at December 30th, 2013 11:32 AM

R&D for anti-aging agents are on a road to nowhere. David Sinclair the Harvard-based PhD developed one pill based on a natural molecule (resveratrol) and it was bought up by a drug company and further R&D has been halted. Attempts to sell it as a dietary supplement were also blocked. A conclave of resveratrol researchers has charted a course for this molecule as a drug, rather than a supplement.

The problem with the drug idea is that this will make an anti-aging pill less available and less affordable to the masses, at the risk of making it a drug for elite wealthy humans only.

Furthermore, doctors are not interested in any agent that would quell the amount of disease to treat. Sinclair says such a pill would replace 20 classes of drugs, making it unwelcome to the commercial goals of pharmaceutical companies.

Will they ever let let an anti-aging out of the lab and get into common practice? I doubt it. First, because doctors are trained to detect and treat disease, and the financial rewards are geared in the same direction. One resveratrol pill was found to restore vision among helpless patients for whom drug treatment failed. Very few doctors have embraced it. There are no financial rewards for using it over an injected drug.

Sinclair now tests an NAD precursor and strikingly reports mitochondrial changes govern aging and the NAD therapy reversed aging in a rodent, equivalent to making a 60-year old human 20-years old again. But again, we hear Sinclair suggest longevity seekers wait till researchers make it into a drug. Published studies linking NAD precursor nicotinamide to anti-aging effects date back as far as 1953. So why did it take till late 2013 to demonstrate this again?

I wrote on anti-aging researcher in response to a paper he wrote wondering how to get FDA approve for such a drug. But the FDA is given authority over drugs to treat and prevent disease, not for aging per se. Should longevity seekers have to go to a doctor's office and be diagnosed with premature aging to receive an anti-aging pill? And will insurance pay? As long as the financial model is not welcomed, who would embrace it to the demise of their own income?

There is not a single human study in cardiology for resveratrol in 10 years, even though it was first posed as a non-alcoholic alternative to red wine to promote cardiovascular health.

In a book written a few decades ago the author told a fiction story of a man who invented an anti-aging pill. It began to be adopted by the public when the President of the US announced he was taking it. But the Pope opposed it. Doctors finally jumped on board when they were the only distribution point for it. But casket makers and mortuary owners combined forces in an attempt to buy the technology out and scuttle it. The Pope also refused to embrace it, saying it interfered with God's timing.

It ain't gonna happen.

Posted by: Bill Sardi at January 5th, 2014 5:56 PM

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