The SENS Research Foundation has released videos of the keynote addresses given at the Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2015 conference held earlier this year. The SENS Research Foundation is one of the very few organizations focused on speeding up progress towards medical technologies capable of repairing the cell and tissue damage that causes aging. This has been a neglected area of research and development, scattered across many fields in medicine, and with little coordination between research groups working on aspects of the same form of damage and degeneration. As a consequence the basic science is far ahead of its application; for more than twenty years now more than enough has been known to make real inroads into repairing the causes of aging and age-related disease. Yet all too little of that has happened, despite tremendous progress in biotechnology and its tools. What is needed today is much more work on turning what is known about cell and tissue damage - and how to fix it - into therapies, and this rather than the generation of ever more data on the detailed interactions between metabolism and aging, which is the present focus for the majority of the aging research community.
Fortunately significant progress on the basis for rejuvenation therapies has been made in the labs in recent years, even given the struggles for funding and attention. Senescent cell clearance has been demonstrated, as have methods of working around the consequences of mitochondrial DNA damage, and more besides. For organizations like the SENS Research Foundation this means that it is time to devote more energy to making connections with the for-profit medical development industry. More technologies will be arriving at the point of readiness for development in the years ahead, but the hand-off from research group to company to clinic is not something that just magically happens. It all requires organization, raising awareness, making connections, giving clear signals as to what is coming down the line. This is the purpose of the Rejuvenation Biotechnology conference series, to help smooth the path and build the network of relationships that will needed for what is to come. The next step is to bring large-scale funding to bear on creating the first generation of effective therapies to treat aging out of technology demonstrations of rejuvenation carried out in the laboratory.
Chas Bountra is Chief Scientist at the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC). Bountra's keynote provides an overview of how new medicines are commonly discovered and researched today, citing organizational and scientific challenges as the causes behind a process that is slow, costly and risky. In light of these factors, Bountra is developing - and succeeding with - a new approach to drug discovery at the University of Oxford's Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine. The group works with a consortium of labs in Canada, US, Brazil, Sweden and Germany, collectively called the SGC. He outlines key initiatives that are accelerating the development of new medicines:
Pooling resources: Because there is high risk associated with this business, it is unrealistic to think that any one organization, group or individual can succeed alone. The SGC is working with a consortium of 10 large pharmaceutical companies, benefitting from their financial resources as well as their expertise in medicinal chemistry, screening, and drug discovery.
Crowdsourcing and transparency: the group freely shares its outputs (data, knowledge, reagents) with the academic, pharmaceutical and biotech world because such transparency creates trust, facilitates collaboration, and catalyzes science and drug discovery. This form of crowdsourcing science is opening up new areas of biology and disease understanding.
Immediate disclosure: Everything that the SGC does is immediately released to the world, disclosing its data, knowledge and new reagents (high quality tools for early target discovery). Making these assets publicly available helps to reduce unnecessary replication and wastage.
Frances Colón is the Acting Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State, United States Department of State. Colón outlined the importance of advising political leaders in the areas of science and technology so they can make better, more informed decisions that lead to greater peace, stability and prosperity. Colón explained that science diplomacy is the interaction between science policy and foreign policy, or the translation of technology and scientific trends to political leaders who aren't particularly well versed in these areas. Bridging this gap allows for change in business and the way in which foreign affairs are handled. She noted that scientists working within the White House, are engaging with non political tools. While policy may dictate the nature of relationships between the U.S. and other countries, scientists cooperate across borders and political divides. As such, science diplomacy has been an excellent asset in many situations.