Several distinct networks of researchers, advocates, and funding sources for longevity science have arisen in the past decade. There is some overlap between them, but the backers are different and the scientific strategies largely distinct. The Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) crowd are I think the most important of these, as they are the only group with a plausible plan to generate rejuvenation rather than just slowing aging, but that network is sadly nowhere near as large yet as the genetics-focused mainstream longevity science network in the US. Most groups working on aging in the US and Europe will probably improve medicine, but are not likely to produce technologies that will lead to considerable extension of healthy life spans.
The topic for today, however, is the Russian network that encompasses the Science for Life Extension Foundation, research institutes in Moscow and elsewhere, a few entrepreneurial types who are launching ventures in other countries, and a few attention-shy high net worth backers. The Russian longevity science community is about as focused on the genetics and metabolism of aging as the US mainstream, but that focus is informed by programmed aging theories rather than a consideration of aging as accumulated damage - which leads to a fairly different emphasis on the development of treatments. I still think that this approach is unlikely to produce meaningful near term results in longevity, however, even while it will generate a great deal of new knowledge and associated improvements to medical technology.
This publicity release should be taken as a sign of the times, and that progress is happening elsewhere. The present growth of interest in serious research on longevity is not limited to the US and Europe, and ours is not the only advocacy and fundraising community.
Deep Knowledge Ventures last week sponsored the inaugural 21st Century Medicine Forum on 'Commercialising Longevity Research' and welcomed a host of London-based investors, scientists and entrepreneurs to the London Bioscience Innovation Center for the event, organised by the UK's Biogerontology Research Foundation and Aging Analytics Ltd. The meeting highlighted the need for both philanthropic support and investment in translational research for age-related disease, as well as the crucial role of social awareness of advances in regenerative and preventative medicine. This point was well made by attending actress, campaigner and international model, Katya Elizarova, who said: "It's clear that the most important thing is to support projects for preventing aging. If researchers are clever enough to develop methods to prevent age-related damage accumulating, it's much more likely that they will have an ability to treat with success. If I, as a media person, can increase the awareness of what you are doing here today and involve as many people as I can, then I shall do it."
Deep Knowledge Ventures investment remit includes artificial intelligence research and robotics, as well as longevity related biotechnology. On the subject of investment in pioneering technologies. Deep Knowledge Ventures Senior Partner Dmitry Kaminskiy said: "According to our estimates we are at an exciting historical point - even with a relatively small amount of investment - hundreds of millions of dollars - but with well-organized and inspired teams, it's possible to accelerate the exponential growth in science and medicine. Our first joint task is now to create a convenient format for investing in this field for conventional investors, who got used to think in very narrow categories. But we need to go beyond this and change the paradigm. Investors in this field stand to gain more valuable results than profit alone. The logic is effective: in case of successful investments, they automatically get direct access to the actual technologies of personalized medicine and life prolongation for themselves and their families. What other business could be better? When you prolong life and still earn a lot of money on this."
Speakers during the event included Dr. Alex Zhavoronkov, CEO of Deep Knowledge Ventures portfolio company In Silico Medicine, who explained "By bringing together class-leading researchers, pensions experts, financial heavyweights and science communicators at meetings like this, we hope to facilitate collaboration across disciplines and produce the next generation of projects that will take longevity science from the bench to the clinic".