The last SENS rejuvenation research fundraiser of 2016 ended a couple of days ago, with the donations from hundreds of supporters going to the SENS Research Foundation in order to support ongoing scientific programs aimed at bringing an end to aging. Aging is a medical condition with root causes, just like any other, and effectively addressing those causes will allow degenerative aging to brought under control, halted, and reversed. That is the difference between the medicine of yesterday, which didn't have any great impact on the causes of aging, and the medicine of tomorrow, which will. Still, it isn't a sure thing for any specific time frame: most of the relevant areas of research, and the researchers involved, need a lot of help to overcome the technical hurdles and lack of funding endemic in early stage scientific endeavors. That is why we need organizations like the SENS Research Foundation, working to remove roadblocks and fund the areas of great scientific promise, but that are largely neglected by the mainstream. It is why we need grassroots, popular support for rejuvenation research, both to sustain these organizations and to light the way - with donations, discussion, and advocacy - for the more conservative wealthy philanthropists and foundations involved in the support of medical research. The more we help ourselves in the matter of aging research, the more additional help will arrive.
I'm pleased to note that, thanks to the many generous donors and those who put up challenge funds to match donations, $300,000 was raised in the main fundraiser over the course of November and December: $150,000 from donors and $150,000 from a matching fund provided by the Forever Healthy Foundation. In addition a little over $60,000 was pledged as monthly donations to be made over the next year by new SENS Patrons: $30,000 from donors and $30,000 from a challenge fund assembled by Josh Triplett, Christophe and Dominique Cornuejols, and Fight Aging! The SENS Research Foundation hasn't yet updated their site for the last minute donations from December 31st, but those numbers won't change too much. This is on top of the $70,000 raised through a crowdfunding project earlier in the year to support the OncoSENS work: scanning for drug candidates capable of suppressing alternative lengthening of telomeres, which is one half of a universal cancer therapy based on blockade of telomere lengthening. Of course, SENS Project|21 also launched in 2016, founded with a $10 million pledge from Michael Greve of the Forever Healthy Foundation. All in all it was a banner year for SENS Research Foundation funding. The enthusiastic support of our community over the years has helped build up to this, one donation, one act of advocacy, one conversation at a time. Every contribution helps, and many hands make light work.
For my part, while we didn't hit the $72,000 goal for SENS Patron pledges, the amount contributed and the number of people willing to sign up for monthly donations ensures that we'll be trying this again. Patronage is of course as old as science, and the SENS Research Foundation is definitely powered by the patronage of wealthier individuals like Aubrey de Grey, Peter Thiel, and Jason Hope. Until last year, however, the SENS Research Foundation fundraisers didn't do much with the newer crowdfunded patronage models for philanthropy by everyday individuals: collaborating to support the sciences with many modest donations. There is precedent. The very successful Methuselah 300 group provided the funds needed for much of the early success of the Methuselah Foundation, but that initiative stayed with the Methuselah Foundation when SENS rejuvenation research spun off into the SENS Research Foundation, even though the 300 donations continue to fund SENS research programs as they did before the split. I'd like to see some of that recaptured in the form of SENS Patrons, hundreds of people making a meaningful difference not just with their donations, but also because they are a very visible sign of material support and enthusiasm. The phenomenon known as social proof is a significant factor in whether wealthier philanthropists commit to an organization. Much as we'd like everyone to be perfectly rational about aging and rejuvenation research, those with the most to give are also the most conservative in the causes they support. They usually follow the crowd, or to be more charitable, rely on the analysis provided by the members of that crowd.
In any case, onward and upward! The trajectory of these fundraisers is heading upward if you look at the history: $60,000 in 2013, $150,000 in 2014, $250,000 in 2015, $360,000 in 2016. In each of these years, I can honestly say I had no idea how to reach that target; it seemed at the time an impossible mountain. Yet you, the readership here at Fight Aging! and the broader community beyond, rose to the challenge. Only this year were there times when it seemed donor exhaustion had set in, and generous individuals stepped in at several points to kickstart things with a timely five-figure donation. There is only so much that any one community can give in support of even the most vital cause without first growing in size; all along, bringing the ideas of rejuvenation biotechnology to new audiences, to gain new supporters, was as much the point as raising funds in these initiatives. This is still the case. So something to add to your resolutions for 2017: talk to someone new about the SENS Research Foundation and the prospects for reversing aging in our lifetime. You never know where it might lead.