You will recall that last year we raised $150,000 to expand the work of the SENS Research Foundation on the biotechnologies needed to build a first generation of rejuvenation therapies. Aging is caused by cell and tissue damage and SENS research programs aim at the repair of that damage to bring frailty and age-related disease under medical control. Nine generous donors collaborated to provide a matching fund of $100,000, and the community came together to add another $50,000 in response to that challenge. Those funds are already being put to good use by researchers.
Following on from that success Fight Aging! will run another grassroots fundraiser this year in collaboration with the SENS Research Foundation, with the main event beginning in October and running through to the end of the year. Again, all donations will go towards the early stage research needed to assure healthy longevity and an end to age-related disease. Between now and October we have the time to build a bigger and better matching fund than last year.
Accordingly: Fight Aging! is putting forward $25,000 to start this fund.
I challenge those members of this community with the means to match some or all of this amount: step up and let's make a difference together.
But why do this, you might ask? Thousands of dollars is no small matter, for me just as much for you. I have made the call that a smaller bank account today is a fair trade for a better shot at health and longevity tomorrow, but why should you?
Because SENS Research Programs are of Great Importance
The SENS Research Foundation is perhaps the only organization presently focused on rescuing and speeding up all of the research programs necessary to produce human rejuvenation therapies. A few such fields are, thankfully, doing well today: we can all agree, I'm sure, that stem cell research is progressing at a good pace and there is little that we can do to help. There are a good number of other fields of research that are just as vital when it comes to the treatment of aging, however: clearance of cross-links, mitochondrial repair, senescent cell clearance, and more besides. Unlike stem cell medicine, there are few researchers in these lines of research, and they struggle to find funding and make progress. Yet without them even stem cell therapies will be limited in their benefits to health and longevity.
To bring an end to age-related disease all of the forms of damage that cause aging must be addressed, and it is vital that all of these research programs are brought into the mainstream and funded at a large scale. Few people other than the staff and allies of the SENS Research Foundation are working on this problem, and none of those are doing so in an organized way that allows you and I to make charitable donations to fund their work, confident that our money will go to one of the points of greatest impact.
Because Our Donations and Our Advocacy are Working
It takes time for research funding to make an impact, and few human endeavors are as slow to show progress as medical research. It is not unusual to wait five years or more to hear back on the next development in a long-running line of scientific inquiry. But groups like the Methuselah Foundation, the SENS Research Foundation, and their network of supporters have been at this for more than a decade now. The results of work and funding from earlier years are starting to emerge now, in the form of greater public support, in the form of new large initiatives like Calico, and in the form of meaningful progress in some of the laggard but vital lines of research.
This year, for example, saw publication of the first example of partial senescent cell clearance in normal mice, resulting in clear and impressive health benefits. SENS advocates have been calling for more funding for senescent cell clearance for more than a decade, and predicting that it should show significant benefits when realized, and it is a real shot in the arm to see solid progress emerging today. We are winning - let us not forget that. Past efforts are paying off, the wheel is beginning to turn, and this is exactly the time to pour it on and reinforce that success.
Because Our Donations Make an Immediate Difference to the Research Process
Donations that support grants for promising but poorly funded research have an immediate benefit for the labs involved, as they are frequently forced to delay follow-on work and new investigations. There is a large difference between what researchers want to work on and what they can raise funds for from the standard institutional sources. Philanthropy and organizations like the SENS Research Foundation are very necessary to bridge this divide. Noted researchers Michael and Irina Conboy at UC Berkeley had this to say about our 2014 fundraising:
In 2014 our lab hit a gap in funding and was in dire need of money to keep a postdoc for just a few more months, to finish up work on the rejuvenating effects of oxytocin. The SENS Research Foundation came through with the funds and we were able to finish and publish the work in Nature Communications. While maybe not the direct path to immortality, that project indicated an effective drug for muscle and bone regeneration (and probably other tissues as well), that is generally recognized as safe. Now the SENS Research Foundation funds our postdoc working on a mouse-sized blood-fraction exchange device project, and a cellular senescence collaboration. So we truly appreciate SENS and Fight Aging! and the donors; even a little support at the right time can make a huge difference in outcome.
Because We Light the Way for Larger Donations in the Future
Wealthy donors and large-scale philanthropy are always late to the party. These are the most conservative of funding sources, and do not step in until a field has well-established support. They wait for other people to lead the way by forming communities, raising seed funding, and carrying out proof of concept research programs. That means us. If you want to see more million dollar donations to SENS research, the path to that outcome is through the small donations and day to day advocacy of a thousand individuals, through the discussion, persuasion, and growth of a community to support the goals of rejuvenation research.
If you have a vision for the future, if you can see more clearly than most, then it is your role to light the beacon, to point other groups towards the best and most promising research programs, those capable of bringing an end to the pain and suffering that accompanies aging. The more that we succeed in strengthening SENS research, the greater the number of new allies that will join in to reinforce our success. This is how change happens in medical research: every friend persuaded and every dollar donated makes a difference.