BioWatch News is a market analysis venture focused on biotechnology, especially medical research and development. This is a fairly common business model: find a niche and help to explain it to investors. People with a lot of money at stake in the market will pay a proportionally greater price for good articles and analysis. Biotechnology is a field that is changing so fast and for which the course of the near future is so very unpredictable that there is considerable demand for vision, knowledge, and explanation on the part of those who know more about what is going on than your average fund manager.
Interestingly, investors - even large-scale investors - are the small fry among those people concerned about uncertainty in the future of medical development. The pension, medical insurance, and life insurance industries are far bigger and will destroy themselves if they bet the wrong way on whether or not radical life extension will happen in the decades ahead. The existing trends, if extended, predict only mild life extension, the addition of less than a year of adult life with each passing decade. These trends are based on the medicine of the past, however, and more importantly on an approach to aging and age-related disease that is both inefficient and changing. Up until this decade researchers made little to no effort to tackle the causes of aging directly, while going forward they will be doing exactly that, in numerous different ways. The trend in adult life expectancy will break upwards, a great discontinuity as lifespans suddenly leap due to the implementation of treatments to reverse the few forms of cellular and molecular damage that causes various aspects of degenerative aging.
When will this happen? That depends on how much funding is devoted to SENS-like repair strategies for aging, and how soon that funding arrives. Timelines and amounts are highly uncertain, as repair of the root causes of aging is still a disruptive new approach in its early growth phase. Small choices on the part of funding sources at this stage make a large difference to the future course of development. This sort of uncertainty gives financial managers heartburn, but even those who have never heard of SENS can see the currently riotous degree of debate and change in aging research. It is a field in the slow roil of scientific revolution. That in turn creates reports from professional actuaries that add ever greater uncertainty to future predictions of life expectancy, the all-important numbers upon which the strategy of financial giants turns. Times are changing.
As I'm sure you recall, the SENS Research Foundation recently hosted the Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2014 conference. This was one part of what will be a years-long strategy to build the necessary bridges with industry to ensure a smooth hand-off from laboratory to developer for future repair treatments aimed at the causes of aging. While we'd all like to think that a way to revert atherosclerosis or cut age-related loss of blood vessel and skin elasticity by half would wake the dead and cause funding to fall from the sky like golden rain, in reality it requires considerable organization to transition even an obvious, amazingly effective prototype treatment into a development program for clinical translation. Thus building bridges and making connections is a very necessary part of the future of rejuvenation research.
The BioWatch crew put out a special issue of their magazine for Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2014, in which there are interviews with Jerri Barrett and Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation, Adina Mangubat of Spiral Genetics, and noted researcher George Church. There is also a great deal of commentary on where things are going and what needs to be done. You can download the PDF version at the SENS Research Foundation website. This is a 40-page magazine from industry watchers devoted to the concept of founding a rejuvenation biotechnology industry; you should read the whole thing:
In holding RB2014, we hope to create an environment where we might foster cross-fertilization between disease researchers. Why? Because all of these diseases share at least one common causal factor: aging. What we are seeing is that sometimes a treatment designed for one disease of aging will also have a positive effect on another disease of aging. For example, much of the work that has been done in cancer has been adapted and is also being used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. This is exciting, and we see it as an opportunity to create an industry that is focused on the development of these treatments.
What makes this conference unique is that it is not just a scientific conference; we're also bringing in economists, regulatory experts, and venture capitalists. Rejuvenation biotechnology is not just business as usual in the biotech arena. These emerging new treatments mean that a lot of how we do business needs to adapt and change as well.
When Aubrey de Grey founded SENS Research Foundation, he had a vision to address the different kinds of cellular damage and how that cellular damage leads to the diseases of aging. Because of this vision, SRF is currently funding research for 18 different projects - three of them here at our headquarters in Mtn. View, and many others at different locations around the world.
Within the walls of SRF, we frequently talk about the fact that nothing can be accomplished in a vacuum. Using the example of Alzheimer's disease, a research team in one part of the world may be focused on one type of damage and making great strides; but unfortunately, without addressing the other two types of damage, they alone will not cure the disease. Let's say, however, that in another part of the world there are two other teams who are addressing the two other types of damage; If you break down silos and create an environment where these three teams can work together, there is a greater possibility of eradicating the disease.
Traditionally, SENS Research Foundation conferences have tended to be very academic and research focused; but we are recognizing that if we are actually going to create forward momentum in facilitating these changes, and bringing actual cures to the public, or to the patient world; then we have to take a step back and look at the much larger picture.
The war on the diseases of the aging is not a third world problem; nor is it confined to one particular country, or one particular race, or one particular gender. The war on the diseases of aging is global; affecting every continent, culture, society, and economy on earth today. Tackling this problem will require a paradigm shift in the usual pharmaceutical method of operation when it comes to bringing therapies to market. We must be willing to break down our silos and learn to collaborate with one another, taking advantage of the wisdom of the global collective of ingenuity, so that true invention and breakthrough can be achieved.
To this end, we give the SENS Rejuvenation Biotechnology Conference (RB2014) a great big around the world and back again, thumbs up. SENS Research Foundation has already stepped out in front to lead the way in breaking down research silos; they have locations all over the world working together, sharing research, collaborating together for true CURES to the diseases of aging. RB2014 is the first conference of its kind to offer further breaking down of silos between other researchers, and breaking down silos between regulatory personnel, investors, other professionals in the industry and even the public. The entire conference has been meticulously planned in the hopes of setting the stage for all of these people to work together and to have a real input into the formation of this emerging market.