Officially Launches, Crowdfunding the Development of a Cure for Aging

Philanthropy has an important role in funding medical research, and thus crowdfunding will have an equally important role in the years ahead: it is collaborative philanthropy, the diverse will of the public, organized and made real. The falling cost of early stage biotechnology research means that the suite of prototype technologies needed to arrest degenerative aging in mammals, preventing all age-related disease through periodic repair of the cell and tissue damage that causes aging, might be as little as a billion dollars and ten years of work away from where we stand today. If we all get our act together.

Many hands make light work, and getting our act together is the point of This new non-profit crowdfunding initiative officially launched last week, showcasing a SENS mitochondrial research project that is a third of the way towards being funded as of today. is an outgrowth of the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), and the staff and volunteers seek to attract funding for the most important of early staging longevity research, speeding the advent of prototype rejuvenation therapies. This is certainly the time for it: today is still early in a great transformation in aging research, leaving behind the look but don't touch approaches and the palliative treatment of late stage symptoms without any hope of lasting cures. The near future is brightened by the promise of direct intervention in the underlying causes of aging and age-related disease, and thus the prospect of being able to cure not just age-related disease but the very process of aging itself.

The LEAF and president, Keith Comito, was kind enough to send me his thoughts on where this initiative comes from and where it is going. We're all of us on our own journeys through this space of development and potential in medicine; more traveling companions are always welcome:

My team and I created because we strongly believe that centralizing crowdfunding efforts in this field will help to create a powerful grassroots movement for the extension of healthy human lifespan. It can do this by not only building a focused community of passionate serial donors who can fund research directly, but also by providing an accessible gateway for the public at large to be introduced to the idea of life extension. can also be a powerful tool in positively shaping the dialogue surrounding life extending technologies going forward. The argument against life extension used to be that it was impossible and a waste of time, but now the critique is changing to one that takes on shades of income inequality: this technology might be possible, but it will be available only for the rich. can serve as a counter-force to this; giving the everyday person agency in the progression of this technology - democratizing relevant research and making the results open to the public.

In the near future we also plan to support with various forms of content, such as thought-provoking videos focused on engaging the broader public. Through this we can help reframe certain aspects of the ongoing conversation about transhumanist ideals such as life extension, which at times can be divisive, to a more positive one by genuinely inviting dialogue on the science and the societal issues relating to life extension, as well as providing a path for those who wish to become informed and involved. Personally I believe that many people can be reached on the issue if we speak with compassion and intelligence. Extending healthy life is not just for scientists or transhumanists - it is human; it is what we have always done since the very first poultices and medicines.

Realizing our work sits within a continuum of human development and thought both connects us to the past and empowers the drive to keep reaching for an even greater future. Ever since The Epic of Gilgamesh humanity has dreamed of this goal - it is exciting that right now we are in this unique moment of history where literally anyone can carry the torch forward, and help find the flower of rejuvenation Gilgamesh sought. You get the chance to be part of the first Hero's Journey, and that's pretty awesome. Call me optimistic, but I think we can inspire others to feel that excitement too.

Personally, I've always been interested in self-enhancement, and slowly that led me to seek out information on the concept of life extension. This eventually led me to Aubrey de Grey's book Ending Aging which made me aware that meaningful progress in this area was feasible in our lifetime. I reached out to him and we bounced some emails back and forth about creating a New York based organization to further this research. This started out as a discussion group that met once a month for about a year, the remnants of which coalesced into LEAF.

I believe a little reframing could go a long way towards reaching the everyman, instead of alienating him. As one example, I think "Do you want to live forever?" is the wrong question to ask, because of how cognitive biases affect the way we think of aging. Better to ask "Do you want to be alive tomorrow? And, do you expect the answer to that question to change tomorrow?" It is in essence the same question, but phrased in a way that mitigates the inherent cognitive bias. I think that if we can illustrate how combating aging is really about affording greater choice to everyone, we can reach more people than we think. Even if an individual doesn't want to live longer or be free from terrible age-related diseases, the odds are that someone they know, someone they love, would like the freedom to have that choice - I believe most people could be convinced that giving their loved ones that choice is a good thing.


I posted this on the older thread, but it needs restating: Brandon Reinhart of Valve Software gave $5k to the mitoSENS project, nearly half of the total funds at this time.

If Gabe Newell (who could easily be atherosclerotic by now) ever starts donating heavily to life extension, the money woes are over.

Posted by: Slicer at August 31st, 2015 6:38 PM

I didn't notice that Slicer, that's good news. I agree... If Gaben got on board they would be all set. Who knows, maybe Brandon Reinhart has brought it up to him.

Posted by: Ham at August 31st, 2015 6:53 PM

Lol at the comments about Gabe Newell heading for heart disease.

Posted by: Jim at August 31st, 2015 8:09 PM

If the SENSRF try to crowdfund their enzyme for removing oxidized LDL from artery walls they should call the campaign "Save Gabe Newell" or #savegabe

Posted by: Jim at August 31st, 2015 8:45 PM

It's true, though- if he put his considerable weight behind SENS, pretty much all the research on Aubrey's wish list would get funded, including foam cell clearance and glucosepane removal. If anyone at Valve is reading this, at the very least, try to get Gabe to pledge exactly two-thirds of what Brandon pledged ($3,333.33).

Posted by: Slicer at August 31st, 2015 8:51 PM

Slicer, are you referring to Gabe's size? I saw he is worth $2B, so yea, he could give away a huge chunk and still live quite well.

I've always been a big proponent of exercise for many reasons.

Posted by: Robert Church at August 31st, 2015 8:52 PM

That is a good angle. "Want to spend your entire life playing games? Don't worry about heart attacks and junk-food. Fund SENS"

Posted by: Arren at September 1st, 2015 2:46 AM

Working with the video game industry to fund reasearch was something I suggested recently. There are a number of charity video gaming events so perhaps something along those lines could be organised to support work? "Game for life" or something was what I suggested on Ray Kurzweil a while ago.

Valve own steam and if even a fraction of sales were converted into research it would be monumental.

Posted by: Steve H at September 1st, 2015 6:02 AM

There is talk of starting the health-care version of "Uber". Perhaps will become the Uber of healthcare.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at September 1st, 2015 10:11 AM

@Abelard Lindsey: I hope not. The last we need now is another pill-selling organization in the LE community.

Posted by: Antonio at September 1st, 2015 5:30 PM

I think is a really good unified platform to coordinate efforts and I think SENS is showing there is support and interest in the science. If we can boost the signal and reach more people projects like MitoSENS can be fast tracked.

I would love to see the foam cell removal tech or something from the Conboys up next. Not interested in the Sinclair Nad Fad tbh I dont think it will lead to much aside more complete understanding of the metabolic pathways. Not to suggest David is a bad scientist but look at the dead end Resveratrol was. We need to attack the problem on a much broader front like SENS is.

Posted by: Steve H at September 2nd, 2015 5:48 AM

I agree Steve. And look at how much GSK paid for that company Sirtris that Sinclair founded. I think there is definitely opportunity to receive increased funding once something shows any potential to work.

Posted by: Ham at September 2nd, 2015 7:23 AM

Glad to learn that Aubrey's openness could enable the creation of this initiative. Kudos, of course, to Keith and his team for bringing about this project.

Posted by: Nico at September 2nd, 2015 2:12 PM

I just saw advertising in times square! Talk about going mainstream, giant adverts on buildings in the square, now that is more like it!

Next up foam cell remover please SENS! Lets do this shit!

Posted by: Steve H at September 2nd, 2015 3:27 PM

Really Steve? I'll keep a lookout for that. I'll be in NYC within the next week or so. Hopefully that piques peoples interest.

Posted by: Ham at September 2nd, 2015 4:08 PM

Today I sought a sudden increase in funding for this campaign. Now I know why. They are doing big marketing! Also, today I sought some known people donating, like Maria Konovalenko.

Posted by: Antonio at September 2nd, 2015 5:37 PM

Steve, could you make pictures of these adverts? I checked on's blog to see if they introduced their offline campaign but to no avail.

Posted by: Nico at September 2nd, 2015 5:47 PM

@Nico: You'll find images if you search for on Twitter. They are quite active there.

Posted by: Reason at September 2nd, 2015 6:46 PM

Just to clarify about polyphenolic molecules such as resveratrol: they do work. There is a long list of data from multiple labs supporting that. What was and still is contested is exactly what their mechanisms of action are. Sinclair in convinced that the main target is sirtuins such as SIRT1, which other labs disagree with. Other data shows these molecules having additional targets within metabolic pathways. So basically, pinning down their exact targets and effects at the molecular level, along with identifying additional small molecules with similar effects, may provide us with a very useful tool kit with which to probe the contributions of different steps within pathways to longevity. And as an additional benefit, these molecules can also be readily adopted into drug form.

Posted by: Oliver at September 2nd, 2015 10:55 PM

I would be inclined to suggest this constitutes messing about with metabolism. I think the resulting data will be useful for better understanding the metabolic pathways but of limited value to a repair strategy ala SENS. As I say Dr Sinclair's work is top rate but I would rather fund direct repair projects like MitoSENS.

Posted by: Steve H at September 3rd, 2015 4:11 AM

Thanks Reason. Here's the direct link to the pic:

I think the advert would have had more impact if, instead of showing a young plant growing from an old trunk, it had show a half-old half-young face. It's a classic trick and could be mistaken for a cosmetics advert, but it conveys the idea more directly. What I have in mind is this:

Posted by: Nico at September 3rd, 2015 5:37 AM

@Nico still it does show Keith and Oliver are hitting hard and aiming high here. I am hoping they can incorporate paypal function to the donations soon though so I can make a contribution to MitoSENS. Ironically a year ago I had enough money to fund the whole of the project! :(

Posted by: Steve H at September 3rd, 2015 7:25 AM

I will add that I would be happy to donate a large amount of cash to SENS should I obtain another windfall too.

Posted by: Steve H at September 3rd, 2015 7:42 AM

Oh but sure, Steve, it's still great that they organised an offline advert campaign at a crowded venue. It's definitely the way to go, to reach out people. It needs to be done again for future campaigns.

Posted by: Nico at September 3rd, 2015 9:25 AM

Lively conversation going on here ;) Let me try to address each point:

1. Glad the advertising push is exciting everyone. We'd definitely like to keep doing things like this in the future and experiment with different design styles. Any master graphic designers on the forums here? Or PHP coders for that matter?

2. Yes you could classify polyphenolic molecules as "messing with metabolism" in some sense, but think there are positives that make this a very worthwhile project. In addition to what Oliver stated, it's worth noting that there are comparatively few regulatory hurdles for a therapy of this nature to hit the market, and a much higher chance for something like this to achieve widespread adoption by the public (essentially a gateway into life extension). For example it is much easier to imagine every day people taking a supplement like this in the near future as opposed to a stem cell therapy.

3. Regarding working with video games: I've actually been hard at work building up a coalition of popular streamers, convention runners, and video game vendors to do a charity event like Games Done Quick together with LEAF. I'm actually somewhat known in the gaming community (, which helps open doors. As things take more concrete shape I can then perhaps reach out to people like Brandon Reinhart and Scott Miller to see if they would like to be involved.

Posted by: LifespanKeith at September 3rd, 2015 10:04 AM

Keith, check your email again.

A session of AGDQ going to a Lifespan project would be excellent, but I think the big money is from, well, big donors; if Gabe and Notch have played enough video games to know that your piles of accumulated cash won't help you at the game over screen, you don't respawn here, and there are no saves, he shouldn't be terribly hard to convince.

Posted by: Slicer at September 3rd, 2015 3:35 PM

I agree it would be great to involve them. If I remember correctly notch donated something like 20,000 at the last GDQ.

Posted by: LifespanKeith at September 3rd, 2015 10:19 PM

"Gaming to Respawn"

Posted by: Jim at September 3rd, 2015 10:22 PM

Will there be any matching funds for the MitoSENS fundraiser?

Posted by: Florin Clapa at September 4th, 2015 12:35 AM

I was talking about linking video gaming to research fund raising about six months back on Ray Kurzweil facebook. Was considering the idea of fund raising LAN parties or online gaming events to help raise awareness and funding. I know a few people in the industry I will see what I can do Keith.

Posted by: Steve H at September 4th, 2015 4:11 AM

@Florin No matching at the moment, but we are working on trying to set something up. Can you suggest organizations that we should reach out to and I'll follow up?

@Steve Great; the more the merrier.

Posted by: LifespanKeith at September 4th, 2015 12:47 PM

I wonder if Larry Ellison would be interested in donating to the field again?

Posted by: Ham at September 5th, 2015 4:55 AM

Talking about money and videogames, I've seen people talk about a news article according to which the creator of Minecraft is supposedly be "bored" and "doesn't know what to do with the billion he has banked". (I haven't read the article myself, just saw the headline).

Well, donating for rejuvenation would be a great way to use his money. On the other hand, he'd wonder how such donation benefit him and his lifestyle - thinking he doesn't even enjoy life at present.

Posted by: Nico at September 5th, 2015 12:59 PM

Yes Antonio, it was this story. I don't have Twitter either, but hopefully the team will think about him for their future advocacy efforts.

Posted by: Nico at September 6th, 2015 9:50 AM

As much as I believe in the need to bring in sources of funding, crowdfunding necessarily has a 'charity' like feel to it that may dissuade many serious sponsors. There are more serious and pro-profit-driven funding systems such as futures markets and hyper-private donor societies. The cost of course is accountability, public availability, huge profit-overhead, and transparency. You need to ask yourself whether you want solutions to be available in a decade to the wealthy and 10 years later to most everyone else through this means or in 30+ years to most people under a highly transparent and co-operative type system as Fighting Aging appears to have been promoting. You need only look at the Venter Institute and its means for solving the genome to see what a hyper-profitable entity with no oversight and a rather ruthless overseer can accomplish -- and that was lucky since there was a competing government funded entity for which Venter took advantage. There is certainly a distasteful flavour to such a 'mad scientist' driven research program, but such is the society we live in. An amusing comic on this subject:
Good luck, anyway.

Posted by: Jer at September 6th, 2015 12:31 PM

Jer, this research is very far from being profitable.

Also, Venter didn't obtain profit from his human genome project, and he heavily used research already done with public funds.

Posted by: Antonio at September 7th, 2015 1:07 AM

Hey Everyone, here's some updates on the above:

Gaming: I've made contact with some of the guys with GamesDoneQuick and working on doing something together. If things materialize we'll definitely reach out to people like Notch to try to get them involved.

PayPal: I've been going back and forth with their support to try and get approval for their Adaptive Payments program (required for the crowdfunding-style "pre-approved" billing model), and having a somewhat hellish time of it. We are currently stuck on the issue of max allowed donation size, which they are currently stating must be so low as to be a non-starter for realistic use. I am still working on negotiating with them, but the realistic outcome is that we'll have to wait a while before we can add PayPal, assuming they will bend on this after we have proved ourselves for some indeterminate amount of time. On a related note; do any of you know a way to incorporate BitCoin that is capable of the pre-approved billing model? I'm aware of things like Coinbase, but I haven't been able to spot an integration that supports pre-approved billing.

Posted by: LifespanKeith at September 9th, 2015 8:33 PM
Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.