There has been growing interest in grassroots political organization among members of the longevity advocacy community in the past couple of years. Unlike efforts such as the Longevity Dividend, which aims at the lobbying process to direct established flows of public funding towards longevity science, the grassroots is starting with the formation of single issue political parties in different countries. As an approach to activism this has a long history in Europe, though less so in the US by virtue of the differences in electoral systems. You might look at the Green and Pirate parties as successful examples of the type.
One outcome of all this was the creation of the International Longevity Alliance a little over a year ago. This organization acts as a point of organization and coordination for various local groups in different countries, and is an umbrella for a number of lines of volunteer work, some which focus as much on science as on advocacy and politics. But take a look for yourself, as here is an annual report for the past year and roadmap looking ahead:
The ILA's mission is to to promote the advancement of healthy longevity for all people through scientific research, technological development, medical treatment, public health, education, advocacy and social activism. In the past year, ILA has grown. ILA groups now exist in over 50 countries, with unofficial membership ranging in the thousands. It is on its way to official registration in France as a "Fonds de Dotation" (Endowment Fund) and will act as an alliance of pro-longevity non-profit organizations ("NPOs") from around the world.
Officially affiliated groups already exist in Russia, France, India and Finland. Other national ILA NPOs are on their way to registration in Israel, Germany, Ukraine, Colombia, Canada, the United States and other countries. We anticipate that existing pro-longevity organizations will also join as federated members, so that by the end of 2014 ILA will become a well established network of formally registered NPOs, as well as informal groups and individuals around the world, united for the purpose of achieving healthy longevity for all.
You might also take a look at the Denigma platform that is now under the ILA umbrella. Ideally those working on it will be able to produce something as useful and well-regarded as, say, the Human Ageing Genomic Resources site at the end of the day - and this is not an unreasonable goal, considering what they have accomplished to date.
Denigma (Deciphering the Enigma of Aging), based on the Linux open-source operating system, is the main ILA IT platform to collect, hold and distribute information. In 2013, the platform was extensively developed. Deliverables produced during this year include: the building of Denigma Legacy: denigma.de; Longevity Variant Database: longevitydb.org; Denigma Destiny: denigma.org.
We have used the platform to establish molecular profiles on ageing and powerful biomarkers to accurately measure biological age and effect of anti-aging interventions (focusing on genetic targets and functional prediction on miRNAs). We have used it to analyze aging-suppressor gene activity measurements (data analysis to link levels with phenotype); to reveal the role of mitochondrial heteroplasmy and metabolic influence (link levels with phenotype); to validate the role of aging as the main cause of diseases. We have provided exact descriptions of the individual influences of aging hallmarks and created hundreds of ontologies and linked annotated data on aging.
They are also helping to set up and fund studies, though of course I'd be happier to see more SENS-like work aimed at reversal of aging and less of the drug testing with the aim of merely slowing aging. All publicity is good, and initiative in setting up studies is to be commended, but I just don't see that any great payoff is likely to result from this sort of screening work. Of course I - and other SENS supporters - are in something of a minor in holding this viewpoint:
ILA is initiating projects to test life-extending interventions in mice, other domestic animals and simpler organisms using both academic and do-it-yourself biology platforms. In 2013, we initiated a project on life-span extension in mice in cooperation with the Institute of Gerontology in Kiev, Ukraine. Test protocols have been developed for potential anti-aging drugs, as well as a plasma test for pathologies. Logistic procedures have been established. The do-it-yourself biology platform has been further strengthened to encourage testing life-extending interventions in rats and hamsters at home.
A top priority for 2014 will be to establish a screening project to test lifespan-extending interventions in mice. Funding for this large screening project will be actively sought in 2014.
So all in all there's a lot going on in that portion of the community: good news, I think, to see so much activity in comparison to the desert of past years. The European and Russian groups are really pulling together and getting stuff done - more power to them. I hope to see the ILA volunteers continue the good work, and hopefully come around to more of a SENS viewpoint in their future fundraising and scientific initiatives.