The Longevity Forum, a Meeting of Science and Society

Next week, the first Longevity Forum will be held in London. This is a broadening of Jim Mellon's Juvenescence venture, which is a fund that has invested in a number of startups working on therapies to slow or reverse aspects of aging, but perhaps more importantly also a vision for a near future in which aging can be robustly treated as a medical condition, and healthy lives lengthened by many decades as a result. The Juvenescence principals seek not just to invest in a few companies, but to build a new industry: to put in place a supporting ecosystem that can fund the very expensive later stages of development and regulatory approval for entirely new categories of medicine, the suite of rejuvenation therapies that will arrive in the years ahead.

This ambitious project necessarily involves persuading the largest, most conservative and risk-averse institutional sources of funding, those that are capable of devoting hundreds of millions of dollars to construct and distribute new medical technologies. Biotechnology startups are just the start of a process, and the rest of society provides the follow-through that leads to widespread availability of better medicine. This goal will involve persuading thought leaders and the public at large of the merits of the vision of longer, healthier lives for all, as large organizations rarely take even a single step beyond the present public consensus of opinions. None of the necessary change will just magically happen. It will all require deliberate effort, and the Longevity Forum is one part of that effort.

We believe that increased longevity presents the biggest opportunity of the 21st century but will require a thoughtful and rapid response to ensure its benefits can be reaped. With every country in the world experiencing an ageing population, the individuals, companies and countries that best adapt will seize a substantial competitive advantage. The Longevity Forum brings together two key pillars of the longevity debate - science and society.

As science catches up with the human aspirations of living longer, a new approach to public health is urgently required. Our Juvenescence agenda advocates a new model for both health promotion and disease prevention which can support healthy longevity, increased life expectancy, improve overall productivity and ensure that healthcare spending is focused on preventing diseases of ageing rather than on curing them.

At the same time, our 100 Year Life agenda recognizes that living healthy and long lives without changes to the three stage structure of life (school, work and retirement) which has defined the 20th century, will not necessarily lead to fulfilled lives. With this in mind, we advocate a move towards a life structure which is better suited to the 21st century, with radical changes to how we approach education, careers, finances, and family life.

Tackling these issues requires a focus not on end of life but all stages of life. We need to ensure that all generations are prepared for a long and healthy life. This new era of longevity requires greater interconnection between education, financial planning, and scientific progress.