This is a year of much grassroots fundraising for longevity science, it seems, with more new projects launched and more new faces joining the community of supporters. All of these developments are collectively, hopefully, yet another sign that faster growth and more publicity are yet to come: the tipping point for public acceptance of efforts to treat aging as a medical condition is somewhere near, just around the corner. Ten years from now, people will conveniently forget that they were ever opposed to the development of therapies for aging. How silly that would be, like opposing cancer research or heart disease treatments, like self-sabotage. Who would think such a thing?
Here at Fight Aging! we're preparing to launch our 2015 SENS rejuvenation research fundraiser on October 1st, which coincidentally is also Longevity Day and the International Day of Older Persons. The crowdfunding site Lifespan.io launched recently, and their first project is a part of the SENS research programs aimed at bypassing mitochondrial DNA damage so as to remove that contributing cause of degenerative aging. Drop by and give them a few dollars: it's just the starting point for that team of crowdfunding developers, and I expect to see interesting things from them in the years ahead.
Similarly, a fundraising effort is presently coming together with the aim of raising philanthropic donations for development of the anti-virus technology DRACO. This is an approach that can be applied to near any virus in mammals, as it targets cells in which viruses are replicating rather than the viral particles themselves. DRACO has been featured at SENS conferences in the past, and is an excellent example of a technology that is too radically different from the present status quo to have an easy time in fundraising, even when backed by studies that would be more than enough to raise money were the results produced by the output of the standard drug discovery process.
Hence the work of a small group of volunteers putting together initiatives like killingsickness, and aiming at starting a crowdfunding campaign starting on October 1st this year. It's a busy time.
As you already know, DRACOs research and development may lead to a cure for virtually all viruses. More importantly, DRACOs may end suffering and save millions of lives! Unfortunately, this has received only limited funding to date and so DRACOs research and development will only happen with your help! We will launch an IndieGoGo campaign October 1, 2015 and we hope you will donate. We do know you have a lot questions first, and we want to answer them! To that point, please comment with your key questions and we will develop and post an FAQ's here and on the IndieGoGo campaign page.
The DRACO approach and results have been called "visionary" by the White House and named one of the best inventions of the year by Time magazine. However, research on DRACO has entered the well-known "Valley of Death," in which a lack of funding prevents DRACO and many other promising new drugs from being developed further and advancing toward human medical trials. With your help, we would like to raise enough funding to help DRACO successfully pass through the Valley of Death and advance toward human trials.
In cell culture, DRACO is reported to have broad-spectrum efficacy against many infectious viruses, including Marburg marburgvirus and Zaire ebolavirus, dengue flavivirus, Amapari and Tacaribe arenavirus, Guama bunyavirus, H1N1 influenza and rhinovirus. Although DRACOs have not yet been tested against other viruses, their broad-spectrum activity may mean that they might also be effective against HIV, HSV (cold sores and genital herpes), herpes zoster virus (chickenpox/shingles), HTLV, Ebola, MERS, SARS, avian influenza (bird flu), and other major viruses. DRACOs might be effective against viruses that are currently untreatable, or that can currently only be controlled but not cured by existing drugs. Because of their broad-spectrum activity, DRACOs might be useful in treating viruses that have become resistant to existing antiviral drugs, or even in promptly treating outbreaks of newly emerged viruses (like MERS).
Looking beyond the consideration of this one technology, and this effort to bypass the issues afflicting funding of early stage research, I see this and other similar efforts as representative of an ongoing and important change in the research ecosystem. The falling cost of communication, still on its way down towards the vicinity of zero, is fundamentally changing all aspects of human interaction and collaboration. The need for organizations to act as middlemen in funding the least costly, most risky, and earliest stage research is evaporating: the people with the interest and incentive to fund this work can collaborate among themselves, talk to the researchers directly, and set up their own fundraising efforts.
All of this produces a much greater incentive to educate ourselves about research and medicine, so as to better pick the winners, and to be able to make a difference to our own futures. It is the same incentive as drives us to understand diet and exercise. That incentive will play out over the next decade or two to produce a funding landscape, a dynamic interaction between laboratory staff, researchers, and the public, that is very different from what we see today - at least in the areas that really matter to the pace of progress, which is to say the innovation that occurs in early stage research that is very hard to fund adequately through traditional channels.