Characters from the First Wave of Modern Life Extension Advocacy, Still Going Strong

I've made the case that the modern development of support for longevity science has arrived in waves of ten to fifteen years apiece, starting in the 1970s. Advocates of that era were very overconfident, not as integrated with the scientific community as today's crowd, and outright wrong about the prospects for the near future. Right in the long term, but not for the four decades between then and now. Those who founded the "anti-aging" marketplace built a pipeline in advance of any possible product, and then they sold out and filled that pipeline with junk: supplements, potions, and anything that sold. It is possible to be a success and yet still fail, and this is one of the great illustrations of that fact in our time.

Yet some of those folk kept the vision, and took the money they made selling out, and ran it back into trying to advance selected areas of research and development. In particular the people behind the Life Extension Foundation on the one hand have done a great deal to establish a damaging, ridiculous view of the efficacy of supplements in aging, helping to ensure that most people don't look beyond the supplement industry to think about medical research that might actually do something to meaningfully extend healthy life - something that cannot be achieved through supplements. On the other hand the LEF principals have helped build the cryonics industry, and funded legitimate stem cell, cancer, and SENS-like research projects over the decades. I have my own opinions on the final weighing of good and bad in all of this. It has taken a long time for the scientific community to wrest back the mantle of legitimacy for the study of extending human life spans, and much the past unwillingness of researchers in the field to engage with the public at all can be laid at the feet of the "anti-aging" marketplace, and the outright lies and fraud that continue to characterize its marketing.

Like many of the folk involved in the early life extension community, the principals at the Life Extension Foundation are characters. It is what you tend to find among those involved in carving out new fields of business and study: the meek and the commonplace need not apply. They seem to be engaged in a little amateur religious engineering at present, a venture I mentioned in a post last year, though at the time it hadn't clicked that these were the folk involved. It is a lengthy and interesting article on many levels; you should certainly read it all rather than walking away with the summaries in the opening section, as they are rather misleading:

In 2013, William Faloon and his longtime business partner, Saul Kent, bought, for $880,000, this building just north of downtown Hollywood that had formerly housed a Baptist congregation. They founded the Church of Perpetual Life, which hosts once-a-month meetings with a guest speaker and a social hour. Establishing the church is just the latest bold step in the duo's lifelong mission of trying to extend human lifespans. Faloon and Kent are controversial figures in a controversial field. The so-called "immortalist" movement encompasses strategies of "life extension," from taking vitamins to receiving organ transplants. It also includes cryonics, the idea that corpses can be cooled to extremely low temperatures and someday, somehow, be returned to life.

For their work, Faloon and Kent have been both hailed as visionaries and derided as snake-oil salesmen. They've been raided by the feds and thrown in jail for importing unapproved drugs. They've bankrolled a slew of curious cryonics projects, from the freezing of dogs to experiments in an underground house. Kent even had his own mother's head detached and cryopreserved, then had to fend off a murder investigation. Now, they're battling the IRS over the foundation's tax-exempt status.

None of this seems to bother Faloon much. A huge round of investment from the global 1 percent is now bringing immortalist ideas out of the realm of science fiction. Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal; Martine Rothblatt, founder of Sirius Radio; and Sergey Brin, CEO of Google, are just a few of the ultrarich who have recently begun to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into life-extension endeavors. Death, they are betting, is a scientific problem that can be solved. Says Faloon: "What I had hoped would happen in 1977 is finally happening in 2015."



To be honest I trust them about as far as I could throw them. Any good they have done is far outweighed IMO by the snake oil and Pseudoscience people like this peddle. I will stick to supporting proper research like SENS, Maria Konovelenko etc...

Posted by: Steve H at May 18th, 2015 6:05 AM

Radical life extension science won't develop in any meaningful way in our lifetime. I am ok with LEF 's approach focusing on what is doable NOW, even if it only squares the curve and allows for extended healthspan. If something better is discovered, one has to be alive and in optimal health to be able to take advantage of it......
I get my blood tested semi annually. Employing simple supplementation, Metformin use and moderate modifications to diet ( not CR ) and exercise have allowed many of the following parameters to improve, some dramatically
HbA1C. A measure of glycation
CRP. Systematic inflammation
Total Cholesterol, and LDL
Oxidized cholesterol
Homocysteine. Widely regarded as being a risk measure
Hormone balancing and normalization

Posted by: Kevin mills at May 19th, 2015 8:54 AM

Well, except the purpose of the sens type therapies are rejuvenation, so your age shouldn't matter as much, in theory.

Posted by: Ham at May 19th, 2015 9:46 AM

How do you reach that conclusion Kevin when news about gene therapies and all sorts of other things are happening? There are some serious contenders in town for longevity from gene therapy to SENS.

Posted by: Steve H at May 19th, 2015 11:34 AM

I thought this was going to be about Durk and Sandy. Whatever happened to them?

Posted by: Louise B Andrew at May 28th, 2015 10:26 PM

@ Kevin : if radical life extension "won't develop in any meaningful way in our lifetime", why do you think there's been a flurry of start-ups and investments in the rejuvenation field, of late ? Mere hype ?

Posted by: Spede at January 26th, 2018 4:57 AM
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