On October 1st we kicked off this year's grassroots matching fundraiser in support of SENS Research Foundation programs. Earlier this year a group of us raised a $100,000 matching fund to encourage donations: each $1 donated to the SENS Research Foundation before the end of the year draws an additional $2 from the fund. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity, and your tax-deductible donations help to expand ongoing research programs that aim to produce the necessary foundation biotechnologies for therapies to repair the causes of degenerative aging. We have a chance at avoiding frailty and age-related disease, but if we want to attain that goal in time enough to matter then we must all do our part. New medical technologies don't fund themselves, and the future we get is the future we choose to invest in.
As of last Friday more than 200 people from the futurist and broader longevity science community stepped up to donate a total of $6,600. Thus with matching from our fund these first donors have ensured that nearly $20,000 will go to support rejuvenation research organized by the Foundation in 2015. We have a way to go yet to draw down the rest of the fund, however - and all help is appreciated.
A big part of this process is people and discussion, not money. It is about building a larger community of supporters, reaching new audiences who have yet to give serious thought to just what might be accomplished in the next twenty years if the right approach to therapies for aging wins out. To most people rejuvenation is an impossible pipe dream, but then most people don't pay any attention to the ins and outs of medicine in practice, let alone medical research still in progress, until they need to. We must do our part to change this state of affairs, to make aging research more like cancer research in the public eye: support, a clear vision for a cure, and an eagerness for progress.
To implement a comprehensive suite of first generation rejuvenation treatments in mice, of the damage repair variety as outlined in the SENS proposals, the research community will need a large amount of resources, perhaps as much as Big Pharma devotes to guiding a single new drug through research and development. That funding largely arrives from institutions and companies with millions to spend on each grant or project, but they never become involved in any line of research that lacks prototype treatments resulting from early stage research, and widespread recognition and support.
The way you raise tens of millions or more for medical research from a few select groups is by first raising tens of thousands from hundreds of grassroots supporters, while thousands more are talking about your work, and tens of thousands are reading about it in the press. You use that modest funding to conduct the low-cost early stage research to produce prototypes and prove your case: producing clinical treatments remains very expensive, but progress in the tools of biotechnology has made early stage medical research very cheap in comparison to past decades.
That is how bootstrapping works, whether for research, biotech startups, or any human endeavor for that matter. But can we do it for SENS rejuvenation research? Of course we can. In fact, we've done it already: SENS started out fifteen years ago or so with a few tens of thousands of dollars here and there raised from hundreds of supporters. As those numbers grew, deeper pockets then provided most of the probably $20-30 million devoted to SENS research programs to date. They did this only because crowds were already making modest donations and talking in support of SENS. The overall funding for SENS is a number hard to pin down nowadays: there is a fair amount of relevant work taking place that is not funded by the SENS Research Foundation or even coordinated by the Foundation, and in some cases it's a tough call as to whether to include it or not in any estimate.
So what are we doing here with this fundraiser? The answer to that question is this: the same proven-to-work strategy, except with more money and faster progress than the early days. The grassroots who make modest donations are the very people who lead the way and light the path for later large-scale funding, and when the grassroots grows that funding will be larger than the present support for SENS. You can help us to make this happen by reaching out to the communities you know: people that haven't heard from us. It's a simple message:
- Do you want to grow sick and frail with age, or for that to happen to your friends and parents? We don't.
- We live in an age of science and progress. Medical researchers can now work to prevent the disability and degeneration of aging, with your support.
- The pains and suffering of aging are not inevitable forever. All ill health was once incurable, but cures were made by dealing with the root causes of ill health. The same can can also be accomplished for the frailty and sickness of old age.
- The state of research and the detailed knowledge of what must be done is presently much more advanced than you might imagine.
- If supporting cancer research looks good, why not also give to support research to treat the root causes of all age-related disease?
- It makes sense. Later, when we are old, we will get the medicine that we supported today.