More Press Attention for Aspirations of Radical Life Extension

Adding decades or adding centuries of health and vigor to human life spans are in fact much the same thing: success in adding decades in an environment of rapid progress in biotechnology means that all those people have time to wait for new technologies that add yet further decades. As soon as future rejuvenation treatments reach that point of initial effectiveness, at which years are added more rapidly than the passing of time erodes them, then most recipients are on a trajectory towards indefinite healthy life. This is shocking for many people when they first think it through, but it is a very straightforward, logical outcome of progress in medicine. Aging is just a medical condition; it is not set in stone, nor is it so mysterious that researchers cannot today be working on ways to remove its causes. In fact there are groups now, such as the SENS Research Foundation and Methuselah Foundation, that have been advocating and funding scientific work in this area for more than a decade.

It always takes far too long to sell the mainstream of any field on a new idea, even when that idea is obviously excellent and obviously an improvement on present affairs. So it is with the goal of repairing the causes of aging, and even the very concept of treating aging as a medical condition. Interest in treating aging in the medical research community has lagged very far behind the bounds of the possible these past two decades, and it has required a great deal of advocacy to get to where we are today. Ten years ago talking about rejuvenation via an implementation of SENS biotechnologies that repair various forms of cellular and molecular damage thought by the consensus to be involved in aging was called fringe, laughed at, or rejected out of hand. Today we see the start of mainstream researchers working on exactly the projectsproposed by SENS and companies founded to build commercial treatments. It is good to be right, but much better when everyone else starts to agree with you and, more importantly, work what has to be done.

Further, now we're in a time where large organizations like Google Ventures are openly putting a lot of money towards the goal of radical life extension. As of the moment they are not actually funding any work that has a hope of achieving that goal, rather mainstream efforts likely only to produce therapies capable of marginally slowing aging, but it is an important step in the growing support and legitimacy granted to longevity research. It is hard for talking heads to laugh at this work now, and from here on out that means increased funding, while the lines of research with a good chance of success will slowly overtake the current mainstream by demonstrating their better prospects at each stage of development. As that happens organizations like Google Ventures will begin to pour funding into that work. The first steps in this process are happening right now for senescent cell clearance, and will happen for other repair based technologies from the SENS portfolio as they bootstrap their way to success - something that depends very much on people like you and I helping philanthropists to deliver the needed funding, by the way.

Google Ventures and the Search for Immortality

Bill Maris has $425 million to invest this year, and the freedom to invest it however he wants. He's looking for companies that will slow aging, reverse disease, and extend life. "If you ask me today, is it possible to live to be 500? The answer is yes," Bill Maris says one January afternoon in Mountain View, California. The president and managing partner of Google Ventures just turned 40, but he looks more like a 19-year-old college kid at midterm. He's wearing sneakers and a gray denim shirt over a T-shirt; it looks like he hasn't shaved in a few days. "We actually have the tools in the life sciences to achieve anything that you have the audacity to envision," he says. "I just hope to live long enough not to die."

Google puts huge resources into looking for what's coming next. In 2014, it started Google Capital to invest in later-stage technology companies. Maris's views on the intersection of technology and medicine fit in well here: Google has spent hundreds of millions of dollars backing a research center, called Calico, to study how to reverse aging, and Google X is working on a pill that would insert nanoparticles into our bloodstream to detect disease and cancer mutations. "There are plenty of people, including us, that want to invest in consumer Internet, but we can do more than that," he says. He now has 36 percent of the fund's assets invested in life sciences, up from 6 percent in 2013. "There are a lot of billionaires in Silicon Valley, but in the end, we are all heading to the same place," Maris says. "If given the choice between making a lot of money or finding a way to make people live longer, what do you choose?"

I also recently noticed the online post for an NPR interview from late last year. You might have missed the first time around, so here it is again:

Achieving Immortality: How Science Seeks to End Aging

The dream to live forever has captivated mankind since the beginning. We see this in religion, literature, art, and present day pop-culture in a myriad of ways. But all along, the possibility that we'd actually achieve such a thing never quite seemed real. Now science, through a variety of medical and technological advances the likes of which seem as far fetched as immortality itself, is close to turning that dream into a reality. This hour, we talk with experts who are on the cutting edge of this research about the science and implications of ending aging:

Wendell Wallach - consultant, ethicist, and scholar at Yale's Center for Bioethics where he chairs the working research group on Technology and Ethics. His upcoming book, "A Dangerous Master: How To Keep Technology From Slipping Beyond Our Control," will be out May 12th of 2015.

Aubrey de Grey - leading expert on anti-aging medicine and technology as well as the Chief Science Officer of the SENS Research Foundation. He's the co-author of "Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime"

Stephen Cave - Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He holds a PhD in Metaphysics from Cambridge, and has worked as a diplomat for The Queen of England. He's the author of "Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization"

Comments

""There are a lot of billionaires in Silicon Valley, but in the end, we are all heading to the same place," Maris says. "If given the choice between making a lot of money or finding a way to make people live longer, what do you choose?""

HE GETS IT!! It's such a breath of fresh air to see someone who gets it. While I'm not particularly fond of Google's attempts of full-spectrum dominance over the entire Internet, they couldn't possibly be investing that money into anything better.

Posted by: Slicer at March 10th, 2015 8:11 PM

None of these people understand experimental chemistry at the graduate level. The focus is on making money and nothing else.

Posted by: rdg at March 11th, 2015 12:14 AM

rdg is correct. real scientists don't think we'll be 500 years old. Just a bunch of people at Google. So what if some guy says these things? A real scientist will tell you that we're nowhere near immortality. Aging and death are reality and will be for generations to come.

Posted by: InternetStranger at March 11th, 2015 3:09 AM

@rdg
You are probably right, but the point is that they don't have to understand it.
They will invest in people who do understand it.
And focus should be on money. Whether we like it or not, profit is what will drive progress. If you are running billion USD investment fond your job is to make more money. And I don't think that raising money for some non-profit organizations can bring us billions USD that we all think are necessary for future research. Few millions maybe, but that is peanuts.
What I like about this article is the fact that they invest much more money in anti-aging related projects. Just look at percentages that are mentioned here.

@InternetStranger
When we talk about Google and anti-aging, I guess that at this point we should talk about Calico. And in Calico we have some science heavyweights...I am just saying this, because "bunch of people in Google" sounded a bit harsh to me - maybe it's just me.
Yes, biggest names don't talk about 500 years lifespans. I think here it's a story of gradual improvement. For me (I think many of the people here will disagree with me on this) we need to reach 150 years lifespan first (or make 120 years something like being centenarian now). Then 200 and so on...500 year lifespan are far in the future...
Question is how far are we from this (150 year life spans). To me it looks like we will be there in next 20,30 years (and might be a bit pessimistic here), but it might be mine wishful thinking. For our kids (let's say those younger than 10) we are talking about 100 year future. I don't think that anybody in this world can give you estimation where the science will be in 100 years. So, Aubrey might be on to something here (not sure about 1,000 years), but I certainly have high hops that youngest population today will reach some remarkable records in lifespan.

Posted by: Gellq at March 11th, 2015 4:13 AM

@InternetStranger
While I agree that aging and death will be probably a reality for quite some time, I think you're understating the funding power at Google. Besides, one positive breakthrough (like the Scripps/Mayo Clinic Senescent Cell news potentially) that really holds promise, and the flood gates will open as far as funding as concerned. More funding should = more progress. So maybe we won't make the jump immediately from ~80 years to 500, but if the jump is 80 to ~120 or 150, that gives plenty of time for new discoveries and new treatments with those additional years.

Posted by: Ham at March 11th, 2015 4:45 AM

@rdg:
Yeah, but a rising tide lifts all boats. I do think that Calico research will probably not produce by itself a significant life extension in humans, but OTOH, it's a great PR for the LE field at large, and probably it'll increase the likelihood that more promising approaches (like SENS) get funded.

@InternetStranger:
"real scientists don't think we'll be 500 years old."
That's true for most gerontologists, but certainly not for all. To name the most famous, Aubrey de Grey thinks that probably the first person to live to 1000 years is already alive, and he's not the only one real scientist that thinks that.

Posted by: Antonio at March 11th, 2015 6:07 AM

Calico has been pretty tight lipped about their approach still. I'm sure it's going to be initially a drug based approach, but that could change depending on other breakthroughs in the field. I'd like to think with the amount of money google has at their disposal, they could fund enough projects and teams that some meaningful progress would be made.

Posted by: Ham at March 11th, 2015 8:35 AM

Gellq, Antonio: There's no point in feeding the death cultist trolls. Also, if you live to 150, you're pretty much guaranteed to not die of old age; the existence of someone living that long proves that longevity can be made to work, and that's another 50-60 years for people to develop further age-reversing treatments in.

Ham: The secrecy is the one thing that worries me about it. What exactly are they doing in there, anything at all yet? Secrecy hides incompetence and inaction just as well as anything else. Until Google starts funding actual researchers to do actual research (any of Aubrey's 7 targets, full-on genetic manipulation maybe?), my optimism is well-tempered with cynicism; while the people in this article are putting their considerable money where their mouths are, it's still just money and mouth waggling. Then again, it's hard to imagine that anyone (in the private sector, anyway!) can spend a billion and a half dollars to get nothing done...

Mr. Maris, if you happen to be reading this, consider donating a tiny fraction of your cash to SENS, which funds said actual researchers.

Posted by: Slicer at March 11th, 2015 12:01 PM

Well, has Calico even built all of their facilities yet? Who knows... maybe they will be funding additional research at various, much like SENS. And yes, I'd like to think that with a billion dollars, something will get done... but then again look at the purchase of Sirtis for 700+ million dollars, and nothing really came of that... so who knows. I'd like to see them delve into the sens type strategies as well, but time will tell.

Posted by: Ham at March 11th, 2015 12:37 PM

I though the article was going to be a train wreck but I loved it (hate the media continually branding it as a search for immortality though).

@Slicer

"Then again, it's hard to imagine that anyone (in the private sector, anyway!) can spend a billion and a half dollars to get nothing done..."

Couldn't agree more. Hopefully the portfolio will focus mostly on repair/engineering rather than big data and metabolism. The former is the least risky and offers the easiest path to profit.

It would be awesome to see them fund something(s) from SENS. If not, there is a serious disconnect somewhere.

Posted by: johnathan at March 11th, 2015 12:49 PM

John: Strongly agreed that this article was of far superior quality, particularly compared to that Newsweek article.

Big Data and metabolism aren't really connected. A huge percentage of all research, everywhere, can benefit in some way from having access to the kind of raw computational and search power Google offers.

Michael, are you reading this? You need to get an audience with these people. Even if they don't fund SENS you might be able to talk them into sponsoring the kind of research you've been funding (perhaps even the exact same researchers).

Posted by: Slicer at March 11th, 2015 3:13 PM

Also, yes, the I-word really needs to go, at least in the context of realistic biological longevity. Anyone using it should be groaned at, with a hint of facepalm. It only brings to mind one of many potential scenarios:

A man walks out of a longevity clinic, his senescent cells cleared and stem cells replenished, his arteries scraped out and his cartilage regenerated, and, with a spring in his step from freshly restored muscles, accidentally walks in front of a truck carrying a fresh load of bioprinted organs.

We're all immortal until something kills us.

Posted by: Slicer at March 11th, 2015 3:23 PM

Yeah, Immortal is way overused especially since you'll still be able to be killed... but honestly how often are people really going to get hit by a truck, or shot, etc.? How often will people really die?

Posted by: Ham at March 11th, 2015 4:47 PM

@rdg and ilk: A real scientist knows that there is a solution for any problem. Said scientist, if intelligent and insightful enough, knows enough to admit that there is no lacking of solution, only lack of one's knowledge to formulate such an outcome based on the aforementioned's current state of resources, whether cognitive, technical, or financial. There will be a cure for aging; a real scientist knows this. Life follows the mind. A mind limited to cynicism and disbelief will be a life spent criticizing the pursuits of others rather than creating or assisting in the amalgamated and tangible response born of ideas by self or other. So many brilliant people are now working on this daunting task of eliminating the disease of aging. There is now funding and more of it. Technologies are becoming cheaper, faster and more efficient. Word spreads faster and people are connected to data that was once near impossible to find. There may even be one scientist out there that is only one or two metabolic steps away from a revolutionary understanding. A real scientist will see this for what it is: an incomplete puzzle. Ever searching for the missing piece or two, that scientist will expend all resources to find those pieces and will not stop at a mere glance of the floor or of the underside of the table. The scientist will search in places the ignorant will not such as on the ceiling or even in the neighbor's yard. The persistent will prevail. This is a beast that cannot be stopped. Words of the doubting masses will be no more than petty speed bumps destroyed by the likes of the progress being displayed by the information posted on blogs such as this or by entities such as SENS or Calico. This is a winning cause and an unstoppable force. What you are witnessing is the beginnings of a transformation from 'if' to 'when'.

Thank you to all of the real scientists, the ones making this movement happen. Thank you to all in support as well.

Posted by: Adam at March 14th, 2015 10:56 AM

The point is there will be an "escape velocity" point at some time in the future when bodies can be repaired faster than they age. It could be in 20 yrs or 200 yrs.

Everyone is just guessing, including scientists. Technology advances sometimes come much later or much sooner than we think. For example: only a modest amount of progress has been made in cancer therapy over the last 30yrs but computer processing has advanced faster than anyone ever imagined.

In the end, we don't know, so we must operate under the assumption that escape velocity is possible within our lifetime, and pursue it as aggressively as we can. Even if there was only a 5% chance we will make it to escape velocity we must try. If your house is burning down it doesn't matter if you have a slight chance of surviving or a high chance, you still try your best to escape. So donate and advocate as much as possible.

Posted by: jen at March 16th, 2015 3:11 PM

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