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Envisaging For-Profit Alternatives to Fight Aging! and Similar Initiatives

Useful activities in our community can be powered either by zealotry or by money. Zealotry has the advantage of being cheap, but the profound disadvantages of being rare, unreliable, and never quite optimally opinionated for the task at hand. Set a zealot to a challenge and you get the output the zealot decides upon, and only for so long as he or she is suitably motivated by whatever internal alchemy is at work in that particular case. Sustainable, reliable, long-term zealots only exist in stories. Money, on the other hand, has the disadvantage of being expensive, but for for so long as income is greater than expenditure, it can be used to produce reliable, sustainable, long-term outcomes. Changing the world always starts with the zealots, but the whole point of the subsequent bootstrapping process is to transition to money rather than zealotry as a power source just about as rapidly as possible. The future is defined by the few visionaries who care greatly enough to set aside their lives to work upon it, but it is enacted by the vastly greater number of people who take a paycheck and go home at the end of the work day.

To the extent we agree that the advocacy, fundraising, and other matters accomplished via Fight Aging! are good things, we'd like to see more of this taking place. More of it, and not dependent on the fickle motivations of zealots. Ultimately that means finding ways to do what Fight Aging! does, but for profit, with money. In this I do not mean Fight Aging! itself, which will be powered by zealotry until such time as the alchemy fails, at which point it will vanish just like everything else does in time, but something like it, and preferably dozens of varied somethings. Experimentation and diversity drive progress, and we won't find out exactly what it is that Fight Aging! is doing suboptimally without the existence of many other attempts at the same types of initiative.

In the years that I have been running Fight Aging!, I've seen many longevity science interest and news sites come and go. Zealotry has a short half-life. When it comes to the money side of the house, things haven't been much better, however. The typical ad-supported sites roll over and die fairly quickly; there never was enough money in that to do it for a niche interest such as ours over the past fifteen years. Their business models fail, and they linger a little while on the fumes of zealotry until that also departs. The initiatives that try sponsorship from the "anti-aging" marketplace tend to last longer, but are so corrupted by that revenue that they quickly lose all possible usefulness and relevance. You can't take money from people pushing interventions that do not work and still speak with correctness and authority.

See the Life Extension Foundation's long-running magazine, for example; how is any layperson supposed to tell the difference between the bulk of self-serving nonsense and the occasional perspicacious and useful article? And these are people who are strong supporters of the use of medicine to end aging, and fund some quite sensible research with proceeds from their business, but is really isn't possible to discern this from their materials, where they are doing just as much damage to the future of the field of longevity science as any other random "anti-aging" supplement company. The point of the exercise is to identify and advocate lines of research and development with high expectation values when it comes to effects on healthy life span, and unfortunately all of the ready money willing to pay for eyeballs-slash-victims involves selling snake oil or convincing the world that snake oil is the way forward.

This might change. One could envisage a Fight Aging! clone comfortably sponsored by the rounding errors in Unity Biotechnology's annual budget, or by some near future responsible confederacy of clinics offering senolytic therapies. Here the challenge becomes the more subtle one of being beholden to the controllers of a particular approach or orthodoxy that happens to work. It is infinitely better than taking money from people selling resveratrol laced with outright lies about the state of the science, but still has its problems. A more desirable situation is represented by, say, ALZFORUM, in which the money comes from a large research funding source, and is thus more agnostic on what can and can't be said. Still, we're talking about degrees of editorial freedom, not its absence. Money always comes with at least some strings attached. Further, research funding sources with an interest in this sort of thing are not common, sad to say.

Another interesting model, somewhat similar to that for ALZFORUM, perhaps, is that represented by Geroscience, supported by Apollo Ventures. For a venture fund, running an online magazine is a small expense, and well justified given the uses it can be put to, even if comparatively editorially independent. A venture fund is an opinion crystallized into money, a wager on the future of an industry that will tend to do better the more that people agree with its core opinion. So why not have a magazine to talk up the market and raise awareness? I'm actually quite surprised that this approach doesn't have a wider adoption in venture capital circles. Geroscience has a likely life span of a decade or more because it is coupled to a fund, which is plenty of time to gather a sizable audience by producing a quality product, but I don't think that the owners are going about things in quite the right way to gain that broader visibility and higher traffic. This is possibly because they have no need to do that to satisfy their immediate goals. Daily or near-daily updates in addition to longer articles are necessary and powerful, and they are not doing this.

A further option for involving money in the process as a slow replacement for initial zealotry is that used by Longecity to some degree, and by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation of late, which is sponsorship by members and patrons. I really can't point to many past examples of this in our space, and it unclear as to whether this is because ours is a small, comparatively young community measured in the grand scheme of things, or because this approach to introducing money is hard to carry out. I do think we have a challenge in the form of cheap research costs; this is of course a blessing for the pace of research and the ability to crowdfund useful work, but makes it hard to fund any of the many necessary areas of community infrastructure that are not research. When meaningful research projects and meaningful advocacy projects cost the same few tens of thousands of dollars, it is a tough choice to give to the latter. The rational actors in our community of supporters near always makes the short-term decision to donate to the SENS Research Foundation rather than to the organization helping to expand awareness of SENS and raise funds for the SENS Research Foundation. This isn't sustainable, however, because it means that necessary functions in our community wind up propped up by zealotry rather than money - and that always comes to its inevitable end sooner rather than later.

In any case, there is no particular conclusion to this line of thinking today, beyond a note that I'd like to see more Fight Aging! alternatives out there, ones running on some basis other than volunteer efforts, but which nonetheless are capable of unbiased advocacy and discussion of the best approaches to enhancing healthy human longevity.

Comments

I have been considering for some months now to start a blog in Spanish about life extension, but falling to start in earnest due to lack of time. OTOH, at the end of the day I spend a lot of time commenting here and in other places about LE, most of the time repeating the same arguments and data. I'm wondering how many hours do you spend on FA! per week, approximately?

Posted by: Antonio at July 4th, 2017 5:11 PM

One easy way to make some money from a popular website is advertizing with Google AdSense. The added "feature" some people don't know about is that Google will register the visitors and use that information in the search algorithms. So an added Google ad on an already popular site helps increase the search ranking and routes some more visitors to that site. Some people don't like ads and they also disrupt the layout, but I've never seen someone complain about a few ads on a free website.

Posted by: Matthias F at July 4th, 2017 7:47 PM

A youtube channel with clickbait videos could work - at least I think it could and have put some thought into it.
The cool thing about clickbait is - it's a single frame, everything after that can be as informative and in depth as you want it to be. Or not.
Or you could have a mix of both - a channel with clickbait garbage videos about rapalogs and diet and exercise and then mix in some educational videos about biotech and aging.

When it comes to revenue you always need to make the choice of making good substantial content - and hoping a cult following can support you or appealing to the lowest common denominator. News agencies nowadays to give you an example, most of them choose to appeal to the masses and produce barely useful drivel.

Rate of growth is also something to consider, Youtube for instance doesn't care if the viewers like or dislike your videos (which begs the question why the voting system even exists, like many other things on youtube it makes little sense) what it cares about is whether the video is being watched in general. So even if you make a video most people disagree with as long as you can make people watch it you will get paid - is any publicity good publicity though? Maybe. It depends.

Either way it is time for active people in our community to pick up the torch.
SENS cannot be the only foundation doing what it is doing and Reason cannot be the only person promoting radical longevity. We need more scientists and more promoters.

Posted by: Anonymoose at July 4th, 2017 8:04 PM

Active people did take up the torch, leaf :)

We are doing pretty well and our adsense was recently added and us making reasonable revenue.

Reason is right about choosing research over advocacy though, it's a shame because effectuve advocacy and social media marketing can ultimately bring in more funds.

That said we are definitely gaining ground and are beyond zealotry and moving into some uncharted waters.

Good article I enjoyed this reason and plenty of hard truths here.

Posted by: Steve h at July 4th, 2017 8:49 PM

@Antonio: Fight Aging! consumes a couple of hours a day, on average, I'd say.

Posted by: Reason at July 4th, 2017 8:49 PM

I suspect that to have a successful popular tech blog pulling in advertising money you'd have to cover other topics than rejuvenation/medicine. Gizmag/Newatlas and Nextbigfuture could be good models. Although Newatlas have been asking for donations and saying that it takes 14 people to maintain their site.

Maybe to cut costs you could send some people out to live in Thailand/Vietnam or some other cheap developing country where you can live well for $1000 usd per month and get them to blog full time? If I wasn't chronically ill I wouldn't mind a job like that for a year or two.

Posted by: Jim at July 4th, 2017 9:28 PM

I forgot to add that if tech blogs could pull in more than a couple of grand per month then you'd probably already have people out in Asia doing this. The abscence of these businesses suggests that it is not possible.

Posted by: Jim at July 4th, 2017 9:32 PM

Would someone be able to set up a clinic in somewhere like Colombia selling FOXO4-DRI for senescent cell removal, but run it like a charity and donate all the profits to three SENS Foundation, but use layering or a Colombian smurf system so that the cash is not traceable back to the overseas clinic?

Posted by: Jim at July 4th, 2017 9:38 PM

@Steve Hill
I do appreciate what you are doing, Steve.
But we need more points of view, more voices.

I suppose at the end of the day that burden does fall on active members of the community like me and I have considered what I could do potentially besides donation. And my aim has always been to turn advocacy into a business - because as Reason points out - we can't move this forward on ideology alone.

Posted by: Anonymoose at July 4th, 2017 11:18 PM

@Anonymoose

Well there are several active people in LEAF though you see me the most because I am responsible for content and social media. We do have volunteer and staff writers and if you or anyone else would like to get involved and help out we are looking for people to get stuck in.

If you have a hankering to do more then the opportunity is here. Better to unite and do things as a team rather than go it alone.

We are not there yet but we are building up to become an advocacy engine room and things are starting to fall into place. What else do you think we should be doing? Would more writers help with different views?

Posted by: Steve Hill at July 5th, 2017 3:01 AM

@Steve - I hope this isn't a suggestion that turns out to be a waste of time, but would infographics help? Fightaging articles and Leafscience articles are a good rad but are not really shareable on social media. Although this might not help.

Posted by: Jim at July 5th, 2017 4:04 AM

@Steve
More viewpoints is always better.

If I had to give you a specific idea I think LEAF can benefit from - why don't you make some youtube videos out of the news you post in the blog? The interviews are great but they are mostly aimed at the people who are already into aging research, the general public doesn't know who Rodolfo Goya.
On the other hand consider the last 3 articles you've posted about macropahages, those could make a great video, keyword the diseases to get the general public, keyword macrophages to get the few random science oriented college students and you should get some hits from outside the community - how many - I don't know, but at least some.

I have some ideas about interviews with topics I've not seen covered in the typical bio-science press - for instance - what prospective benefits does George Church's new project to synthesize a whole human genome from scratch has for regenerative medicine. All the focus so far has been on the negative - designer babies, comic book super villains ,etc. No one has asked the man what we can do for cell therapies if this technology becomes cheap and widely available. Forget freezing stem cells, if you can print DNA on demand all you'd need to do is get a WGS and then you're set for life (however long that is).

Basically painting new bio tech in a good light. That's a perspective I think is missing from most science news sites.

As for the rest, I'm not sure I have the skill set needed to help in writer capacity, but I'll send you an email. Your lifespan.io email is good, yeah?

Posted by: Anonymoose at July 5th, 2017 4:34 AM

@Jim no infographics are a great idea we are just struggling to find someone with the skills needed to do them professionally. We may have to resort to paying to get some made. Its a great idea and we already have started making advocacy "cheat sheets" as part of that process.

http://www.leafscience.org/effective-advocacy-a-survivors-guide/

I believe you have seen this and commented on the site already. Do you like these ref sheets as well as us doing infographics?

Posted by: Steve Hill at July 5th, 2017 5:11 AM

@Anonymoose

"why don't you make some youtube videos out of the news you post in the blog?"

Yes this would be ideal. We are currently in talks with celeb youtubers and we are also trying to get involved in a science show on YT that has millions of subs. I cannot say more at this point but we have lots of irons in the fire.

"on the other hand consider the last 3 articles you've posted about macropahages, those could make a great video, keyword the diseases to get the general public, keyword macrophages to get the few random science oriented college students and you should get some hits from outside the community - how many - I don't know, but at least some."

Yes I added tags and named diseases as part of the strategy to attract a wider audience. Scientific terminology isnt useful in titles as the demographic is very small if you use them. Hence I named diseases and used macrophages too.

George is on our SAB we could try and see if he is available for an interview. We have a number of others lined up too including Greg Fahey.

Anyone is most welcome to contact us with suggestions for articles and events. If you have an idea dont assume we have thought of it let us know!

Posted by: Steve Hill at July 5th, 2017 5:19 AM

And yes you can use the contact details on lifespan.io or LEAF to get in touch. Thanks for the feedback and some good ideas so far.

Posted by: Steve Hill at July 5th, 2017 5:20 AM

@ Steve : I'll reiterate my suggestion that LEAF raises funds for the infographics to be made professionally.

In our highly visual society, it isn't a waste of funds to pay some talented graphist (choose one with past infographics experience) to design materials which will further our cause.

Posted by: Spede at July 5th, 2017 5:37 AM

I should add that said infographics will be extremely handy, shall your contacts with celeb youtubers be fruitful. A mainstream audience commands mainstream materials.

Posted by: Spede at July 5th, 2017 5:40 AM

@Spede
I might have a solution for that, let me speak with Steve.

Posted by: Anonymoose at July 5th, 2017 5:58 AM

'Rejuvenation' is not a good word, that should be obvious to anyone who can read.

There is no, nor never will be any magic molecule that will ever fight aging, harsh truths for those still hoping to bathe in a fountain of quercetin.

Similarly, the most perfect stimulant should hope for is probably caffeine.

Posted by: john hewitt at July 5th, 2017 7:15 AM

@john hewitt
"Rejuvenation definition, to make young again; restore to youthful vigor, appearance, etc"

The way you achieve it is not elucidated.

That being said, I do prefer regenerative medicine, it is an already established term.

Posted by: Anonymoose at July 5th, 2017 7:29 AM

Everything in context. Rejuvenation alone isnt good but "rejuvenation biotechnology" is in my view much better.We use this phrase as does AdG.

Regenerative medicine is ok but this only covers a small part of the field.

Biomedical gerontology which AdG sometimes uses is too jargonized and the public will not get it.

"There is no, nor never will be any magic molecule that will ever fight aging, harsh truths for those still hoping to bathe in a fountain of quercetin."

I strongly refute that given the clinical data for senolytics which can be small molecules and do address at least one of the hallmarks of aging.

Posted by: Steve Hill at July 5th, 2017 7:40 AM

@anonymoose
As much as I love your handle, names are still better.

By way of example, if I encounter someone who drops the F-bomb every otherword, I assume they hate life and themself. Similarly try a google search for 'rejuvenate and mitochondria, or rejuvenate and anything.

Since your head is in the right place now on mitochondrial transplants, I add below some comments for you, and any other like-minded fighting aging realist I finally received back from the authors on the mitochondrial blood injection paper from Ailing recently reviewed here by Reason;

Hi, John,

1. Yes. The immunogenicity of the mitochondria need be determined for a longer time. It's not sure whether normal heterogeneous and homogenous mitochondria could produce immunogenicity. But it's report that variant mitochondria (including oxidative modification of E2 subunits of mitochondria pyruvate dehydrogenase, branched chain 2-oxo-acid dehydrogenase) induce autoimmune response in primary biliary cirrhosis (Leung PS, et al. Antimitochondrial antibodies in acute liver failure: implications for primary biliary cirrhosis. Hepatology 2007, 46, 1436-1442). Now my laboratory is carrying out the immunogenicity and toxicity study of exogenous mitochondria in mice.

2. Intraventricular injection seems a feasible method for brain administration of whole mitochondria, since it can avoid the non-targeting of systemic injection. However, can the whole mitochondria penetrate brain parenchyma? and how efficient of mitochondrial transfer from one cell to the others? In our pilot study, mitochondrial transfer efficiency depends the cell type and condition.

Hope the aboves can help you.

Best wishes,

Ailing Fu

Posted by: john hewitt at July 5th, 2017 7:41 AM

@Spede we wont need to fundraise for this I will propose this to the board and we will use our budget to pay a professional if need be. We are not adverse to paying to get things done professionally and indeed have been doing so when needed. Thanks to our patrons we are now able to do things like this more often and scope and scale of what we can do will increase as more support arrives.

I totally agree about infographics.

Posted by: Steve Hill at July 5th, 2017 7:43 AM

@steve
I am not talking about vitamins; please trust I do not wish to offend the sensibilities of the many smart people here but alas, senolytics is complete bunk. Start with that axiom.

Posted by: john hewitt at July 5th, 2017 7:47 AM

@john hewitt: Not a defensible assertion, given the present state of the field and the evidence. You are veering into trollish behavior. Quit it.

Posted by: Reason at July 5th, 2017 7:56 AM

@john
Senolytics won't magically make you younger. That has never been proposed.
But they will make it easier for tissues to be regenerated in vivo.

Does that make them "rejuvenative"? Maybe. I'd say so.

Posted by: Anonymoose at July 5th, 2017 8:13 AM

@Reason
A couple of months ago I was offered very good money to publish one article a week on aging and senolytics on a very decent websight andthey are in fact still waiting for my first one. I have been reading the literature since and have not found one molecule or paper worthy of my pen, and I could really use the money. I am sorry.
What I have seen is some previous cancer or similar drug proves to be too toxic so it is buried for a little while only to re-emerge perhaps slightly modified or disguised behind papers like the recent post you critiqued on the osteoarthritus miracle rejuvenator nonsense, I repeat nonsense, here, by Jennifer Elisseffs group, who furthermore would not even speak to me when politely sent legit questions: https://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v23/n6/full/nm.4324.html
only to again prove to be toxic.
This is not trolling, this is reality, deeply researched.

Posted by: john hewitt at July 5th, 2017 8:22 AM

@john
I think the problem is you're looking at papers mostly aiming at proving the mechanism rather than proving the drugs used. Senolytics drugs are currently in development how the hell can you say they are bust before they're even in preclinical.

Relax a bit.

Posted by: Anonymoose at July 5th, 2017 8:27 AM

A rejuvenator is a quack with a juicer and a handful of beets or that doctor who just got infamous pushing amygdalin-cyanide as the cancer cure-all. This is what the public knows and they are not idiots.

Posted by: john hewitt at July 5th, 2017 8:30 AM

@anonymoose, yes, any good drug or even artfully done allotopic expression of the odd gene can work miracles for someone deeply off kilter with a specific ailment. For all else, we should take a hint from genetically engineered fruits, veggies, or meats; our wonderful technology of which I am ahuge fan can increase profits but not value to the consumer for the simple reason that these items are already damn close to optimal, taste, general resistance and robustness over time and clime, etc, and most ofus fairly healthy people are no exception.

Posted by: john hewitt at July 5th, 2017 8:36 AM

@John
Can you say what you want to say in a short rational sentence?

Posted by: Anonymoose at July 5th, 2017 9:04 AM

"A rejuvenator is a quack with a juicer and a handful of beets"

And the person who says that is the same person that says:

"the elemental units of both you and me are our mitochondria"

and

"neurons are devices custom built for sorting mitochondria, and furthermore, that axons and dendrites first evolved when the machinery for ejecting and transmitting mitochondria across cells (transexudation) was in place"

Yeah, OK...

Posted by: Antonio at July 5th, 2017 9:08 AM

John Hewitt as someone involved in senolytic research I have to say I think you are talking nonsense, citations needed. If you have "deeply researched" the subject then let us hear your findings.

Go ahead we are all waiting......

Posted by: Steve Hill at July 5th, 2017 10:32 AM

To another topic. I saw now at futurism dot com that a blockchain called Tezos got $ 207 million in crowdfunding. Which only a few understand the system. I cant understand why it is so difficult to get funding for our causes. IRRITATING!

Posted by: Norse at July 5th, 2017 1:13 PM

@ Anonymoose ; @ Steve : Glad to hear that. Hopefully you two will connect and something good will come out of your discussions.

Posted by: Spede at July 5th, 2017 5:45 PM

I think that several blogs/news sites make some decent $ on their conferences. They always seem to be promoting them so they must be a key part of their business. Techcrunch has Disrupt, recode has the code conference, coindesk has a conference for bitcoin etc.

There are several regeneration medical conferences, and specifically the one that SENS puts on. The question is could there be room for one more? Perhaps it would be less academic and more business and PR based. There are all of the age related biotechs getting funded. Maybe get the CEO's of them together for a 2 day conference, and some of the leading academics in the field too. It could be a money maker if held in NYC and investors are invited. They are the ones who will pay up to hear about the next big thing.

Posted by: Deleo at July 5th, 2017 8:47 PM

One blog/techblog that is perhaps missing - a blog covering the newly available use of regenerative or other cutting edge medicine in people's pets. I saw this article today:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608163/your-pets-disease-could-be-cured-by-gene-therapy/

Might be a way of opening people's minds while avoiding the knee jerk reactions to the idea of rejuvenation biotechnology in order to avoid thinking about death and the horrid pain of aging?

Or, if there are lower costs in initiating a trial in pets, there could be fundraisers for particular SENS style interventions in people's pet dogs. Or failing that trials in a foreign country such as Colombia. Sick dogs getting better is always a heartwarming story. Would people fly their family dog to Colombia? Well I saw this in the MIT Technology Review Article:

"Seymour's vet mentioned that a study at Tufts University was recruiting pet dogs with the disease to test an experimental treatment called gene therapy. Though there is no certainty of success, Seymour sprung at the chance, driving nearly 200 miles from her home outside of Albany, New York, to Boston so Greta could receive the treatment in March."

Posted by: Jim at July 5th, 2017 9:48 PM

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