The Methuselah Foundation has hard at work on the matter of aging for more than fifteen years. It is where SENS rejuvenation research first moved from idea to reality, prior to spinning off into the SENS Research Foundation. Over the years, the Methuselah Foundation principals and volunteers have been involved in many of the activities that have helped to transform the aging research community since the turn of the century, setting into motion the projects that will lead to clinical therapies that can turn back aging. In this Return on Mission report (PDF), written for all of us who have supported the Methuselah Foundation over the years, the progress achieved to date is reviewed.
Methuselah Foundation is a biomedical charity co-founded by David Gobel and Dr. Aubrey de Grey. Our mission is to make 90 the new 50 by 2030. We chose that mission because it's falsifiable - it keeps us committed to "return on mission." Having a falsifiable mission keeps us focused. It drives a mindset based in urgency and action. We never want to become the type of charity that exists for existing's sake! Our approach is to put the mission first and money second. We look for high-leverage interventions that spur concrete progress in the short term, and synergistic ripple effects over time. We have built a record of spotting and betting early on people and projects that, with our significant incubation and strategic services, go on to realize remarkable results.
When we began in 2001, it was widely considered both immoral and a fool's errand to work on extending healthy human life. For scientists, it was academically dangerous to even discuss the possibility. Seventeen years later, Methuselah Foundation, its partners and donors have played an unmistakable role in transforming the scientific and cultural outlook. We've had the honor to serve as the first charity to catalyze the movement to address aging. That is almost solely thanks to those of you who've stepped up as the bold few committed to extending healthy life, even in the face of that aim being derided by the press and scientific establishment over the last decade. Our Return on Mission report is an eye-opening look at how far our community has traveled - when progress was never inevitable. It doesn't seem unreasonable to think the last 15 years embody how even a small group can move society. If you've contributed to this progress, thank you!
It has always been the fervent desire of the Methuselah Foundation to find itself with nothing left to accomplish. Over the years, we have been focused on seeking the point of greatest leverage to prevent or reverse the damage associated with aging. We treat aging the way a Medieval diamond cutter would face the challenge of cleaving one of the most valuable and hardest substances known to man. In an era where tools were primitive, the gem cutter would carefully examine the internal crystalline structure, as well as the faults in the diamond. After careful and methodical analysis, the gem cutter would strike the diamond with a cleaver, which would result in the large diamond breaking into predictable and useful smaller pieces, ready for polishing and setting in jewelry.
Aging has been, not just an engineering problem, but a cultural one. One of our "first strikes at the diamond" was aimed not just at scientific progress, but also at publicly celebrating advances in the field. This was the Methuselah Mouse Prize, designed to reward scientific advances and simultaneously overcome the reluctance of the biogerontology community to deliberately explore extending healthy human lifespan. As a social engineering effort, the prize has been spectacularly successful. Efforts to engineer life extension have gone from practically zero dollars worth of investment when we began, to well over a billion dollars in investment.
When we started, the very idea of working on increasing the human lifespan would result in career suicide. Now, the worldwide community is publicly focused on extending lifespan and reversing aging. Due to these early successes, more and more investors are giving attention and funding to our space. In anticipation of this sea change, the Methuselah Foundation created the Methuselah Fund to help curate and direct investments into projects and startups that will move the needle in the near future as we prosecute our mission to extend healthy human lifespan. None of this would have happened without the incredible support of our donors over the years.