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Notes on the 2018 Longevity Forum in London

The Longevity Forum, hosted by investor Jim Mellon and company yesterday in London, was a reminder that we still have a way to go when it comes to guiding the conversation on longevity and rejuvenation in a useful direction. On the one hand, most people give medicine and aging little serious thought until it is too late, and if we want large-scale funding for the goal of human rejuvenation through realization of the SENS research agenda, then the public at large really has to be on board in the same way that they are reflexively in favor of doing something about cancer and Alzheimer's disease. On the other hand, the first reaction of many people when presented with the concept of enhanced human longevity is to fixate on line items that really do not matter in the grand scheme of things: whether retirement will still exist; will life insurance companies have to change their ways; will some particular demographic gain slightly more or slightly less than another as a result of progress in medicine. None of these points matter anywhere near as much as does the act of building the therapies that will save lives and improve lives.

I should probably disclose that I am a technological determinist, in the sense that it is technology that determines society. People will adapt to new capabilities quite rapidly, as illustrated by any number of world-changing advances in communications, transport, and medicine introduced and enthusiastically embraced over the past few centuries. The shape of society will shift in response to those new capabilities. Building the technology is the first, foremost, and only goal: let the rejuvenation therapies be built and distributed, and let the world adapt to the wonders of a longer, healthier life. Insofar as we have to talk about it ahead of time, that talking should focus on whatever is needed in order to direct resources to the appropriate tasks of research and development.

But clearly others feel differently, in that broader discussions should take place, or that there is a process of awareness and coming to terms that must be undertaken. Expectations must be managed, and perhaps that is really all this comes down to at the end of the day. People don't want to be surprised, whether they are managing billions of dollars of life insurance liabilities, or managing their own career and little else. If the status quo today was that we all knew that rejuvenation was arriving soon, then that would be the status quo and everyone would be fine with it. Our job as advocates is, in some sense, to make this the status quo.

The Longevity Forum brought together scientists, insurance and medical industry functionaries, biotechnology investors, former politicians, people with interests in philosophy and self-empowerment, and a variety of less easily described types. There was a row of journalists in the back of the auditorium, heads down and taking notes. The scientific content was kept deliberately lightweight, and the focus was more on what this business of longer healthy lives means for people who live in the mundane world of pensions, life insurance, planning for retirement, and coping with the ugly realities of late life disability. I will say that these are all earnest folk in their own ways and their own bailiwicks, but their day to day concerns are about to be upended in the deluge. The technology has arrived, senolytic therapies to clear senescent cells exist, now, today, and there is no time to be concerned with what will be. By the time any bureaucracy has fully engaged with the question, we will be looking at the dawn of the age of rejuvenation in the rear view mirror.

Large financial institutions are not well positioned for any sort of upward leap in life expectancy in old age, of the sort that will take place the moment that widespread use of senolytic drugs occurs. They can cope with a slightly more aggressive upward trend, and indeed have been gearing up for that for quite some time. But a sudden leap? The result will make the bailouts of other industries in the past few decades look anemic. That is of course no reason to stop. Life for everyone is more important than the financial health of any given group of businesses earnestly engaged in making a severe strategic error. Those that serve poorly should become bankrupt and go under, though sadly the costs are all too often socialized these days. Nothing that was said by the representatives of these industries at the Longevity Forum gives me any hope that it will happen differently; those present either understood but were in no position to make changes, or did not give much weight to the possibility of large upward leaps in life expectancy.

I think one of the reasons that this decimation of the pensions and life insurance industries will happen is because many of the figureheads of the research community are very conservative in their view of timelines and potential. Eric Verdin is an interesting case in point; he was presenting at the Longevity Forum to give an overview of work at the Buck Institute. Verdin makes the case that we are not all that far in to the standard 50 year cycle for longevity-related technologies, and it takes at least 20 years to get anything moving in earnest, pointing to stem cell therapies as an example. On that basis he, like a number of others, sees only incremental advances ahead in human longevity. At the very same time, however, he is quite aware of senolytics, given that it arose in part at the Buck Institute, and touts that work as important. But I have to think that he doesn't see it as any being different than, say, calorie restriction mimetics, in terms of how one can talk about the prospects for human health and longevity. This seems like a deep and important error to me. These two classes of therapy are a world apart. One repairs a form of damage that causes aging, the other adjusts metabolism to slightly slow the onset of further damage. The size of effect and reliability of results are night and day.

In any case, to return to the original point, if one wants to swing society into line with the goal of building an industry whose products will enable people to live much longer in good health, then the established way of going about doing so involves efforts that look a lot like the Longevity Forum. Thus I expect to see more of this sort of thing in the years ahead, and not just in London. The goal of building an industry is far greater than just succeeding with a couple of startup biotechnology companies, and will, even initially, require billions in investment in new medical and research infrastructure. While the core technology demonstrations of the SENS rejuvenation research programs, to produce an old mouse that exhibits comprehensive rejuvenation and a doubling of remaining life span, could be achieved now for something less than a billion dollars spent over a decade, it is vastly more expensive to translate that work into human medicine and then provide it to the world. That requires very large, very conservative organizations to play their part, and they tend to follow public opinion, not lead it.

At one point near the end of the event I found myself advocating senolytics to one of the non-scientists present, a noted figure who runs a charity to help old people with their physical limitations - and is thus in a position to do a great deal of good as rejuvenation therapies emerge. I was forcefully reminded by the resulting polite rejection that people outside our community really cannot tell the difference between snake oil and real rejuvenation therapies. To them a suggestion to look into senolytics, because amazing things are happening in the laboratory and among self-experimenters, sounds no different from a pitch for supplements made by any random fraud in the anti-aging marketplace. Those on the outside are wary, or disinterested, and will be slow to come around. The need for patient advocacy doesn't end just because a treatment exists, and that includes the persuasion of existing patient advocates who work with old people. It seems a terrible thing to me that so many millions are suffering right now, and could make an educated choice on the risks and the rewards to seek benefit from any of the easily available senolytics, if they only knew what we know.

The Longevity Forum is a charitable concern, and part of its remit is not just to bring together the insiders and the outsiders in the matter of longevity science, but also to bring together public, private, and charitable concerns in order to advance their agendas. Charities for scleroderma and premature ovarian insufficiency presented at the event. Both conditions are more subtly age-related than the most common age-related conditions that we are all more familiar with. The latter of the two looks a lot like a very selective progeria in many ways, both superficially and in its biochemistry. There was some discussion of ways in which those present might help. Among those who could offer assistance on the technical front was Alex Zhavoronkov of In Silico Medicine. He presented on some of the capabilities of his company, using deep learning techniques with genetic and epigenetic data sets to find small molecule drug candidates and biomarkers that might accelerate research and development. This is particularly applicable to medical conditions wherein the research community has struggled to gain a good understanding of the underlying mechanisms and causes. It is true, however, that pharmaceutical development in general is one of the least efficient processes in medicine, regardless of the target condition. It is an area ripe for disruption, even if that disruption is limited to creating a very cheap, efficient source of candidate compounds for arbitrary medical conditions.

The formal event ended with a panel discussion on "life well lived." Do people really need to be told how to live? Will the applicability of the wisdom of the ancients really change in the slightest given another few decades of life? One day in the next few years doctors will start prescribing senolytics. Life spans will increase. A lot of ink will be spilled on viewpoints that are ultimately pointless and that will vanish from memory near immediately. Society will continue. But we still, it seems, need to be in the business of managing expectations as well as building new biotechnology.

Comments

Thanks, Reason, for your report. I have been wondering all day Monday, but I am not surprised about the outcome.
People are just not interested, don't want to understand and be left alone. I have not found a single person among my friends, relatives ( some medical doctors ) who showed any interest at all. Although I "cured" my cc, and my husband who did not want to left out, also tried senolytics with some amazing results. My biological age dropped from 40 years to 28 years after the treatment, usine Alex's aging ai. Chronological age is 80..
I have been in touch with my physician in the US, who runs a longevity clinic, and who is super excited about my success, but he has so far not found a single patient who showed any interest in rapa or senolytics, patients who would benefit from such treatments.
Very frustrating. So there is not only reluctance in the UK.
But we must not give up.

Posted by: Helga at November 6th, 2018 1:48 PM

Hi Helga,
you have to be careful when giving such numbers. The small typo and line split on my browser make like having a biological age of 28 with chronological of 80. Period :) . And if that was the case none of your friends would be ignoring your anti-aging protocol.

Alas, it is only using the measures of one test which probably has a very narrow applicability.

What are the effects for your husband. What protocol did he use ? What is your protocol ?

Posted by: cuberat at November 6th, 2018 4:38 PM

"The future always arrives slower than the public expect, but sooner than they are ready for it".

Posted by: Jim at November 6th, 2018 9:43 PM

Hey Jim, love the phrase. Makes good (common?) sense.

Robert

Posted by: Robert at November 7th, 2018 1:38 AM

I haven't even managed to persuade my partner of 10 years that this is valuable pursuit, so I'm not surprised at the reticence of various people at the Forum who are not 'in the know'. I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that only when I turn up looking considerably younger than my partner will she be persuaded, and I expect the world will only be persuaded when the aim of rejuvenation is at least substantially achieved. So we need a public breakthrough.

Posted by: Mark at November 7th, 2018 9:18 AM

@Helga
Thanks for your updates; I'm very interested in what you have to report.

~
I hope Insilico Medicine looks into NLRP3 blockers.

Posted by: CD at November 7th, 2018 9:34 AM

@CD
Of the new longevity therapies, we have been taking metformin for years, NAD+ boosters, rapa
and as a one off D&Q. I had reported last month of my success with D@Q.
My husband tried the therapy twice with 1 month interval ( no more planned ), and his blood test results are the best in years. His GFR improved to 60 - previously 55 and sometimes 50 -
Creatinine has come down into the healthy range. CRP an amazing (for him) 3.5. It used to be in double digits, and mostly in the high double digits! Removal of senescent cells must have cleared some of the inflammation.
Hopefully, there will be some targeted therapies available in the future. I am counting on Alex to come up with something in the meantime.
I had hoped that at the London Conference the enthusiasm of Jim Mellon would have infected the rest of the attendants, but that did not seem to be the case. Very disappointing.

Posted by: Helga at November 7th, 2018 11:05 AM

"senolytics, because amazing things are happening in the laboratory and among self-experimenters" - do you have a source where the results of self-experimenters are available?

Posted by: Jamie_NYC at November 7th, 2018 7:08 PM

I'm a registered nurse by profession, I have asked numerous of my colleagues and I noticed an interesting trend. Those that were already elderly late 60s and higher have already come to accept dying of old age as something that cannot be changed, when I asked those who were younger, a majority are supportive of it, especially when it comes to people of my generation (millennials). They can comprehend and understand new technology that is on the horizon. I am 100% for life and health extending therapies.

Posted by: Derek at November 9th, 2018 6:52 AM

Sorry I meant to those who are younger were completely supportive of health and life extending therapies.

Posted by: Derek at November 9th, 2018 6:54 AM

Greetings Reasonable one! Again, it was super meeting you in New York. So sorry, but I need to go on and on : (( I hope you can just say: Oh crap, I need to read all this drivel.
I've since given a lot of thought to what (our group? : /)is trying to accomplish. After reading your wisdom on this particular post it seems to me that their are relatively very few of us who embrace your first 2 paragraphs. The masses fall into Helga's post above where she states "People are just not interested, don't want to understand and be left alone." Power and religion/other personality disorders have plagued the Human race since inception. These are huge walls that will need to be broken down in order to accomplish anything significant in this field on a global level. Even if we do come up with these therapies, one has to wonder how, as a population, are we going to screw this up. I'm thinking if we were able to embrace something as magnificent as THIS would be, why were we not able to use other great technologies throughout history to better ourselves? Look at the bloody World today! Poverty and insanity are running rampant. It's difficult to imagine success in the rejuvenation field will not lead to conflict and bloodshed. All that said, lets push forward : ))) ...with hopes that we won't lose a great deal of this technology when the entire state of California is ablaze in the near future. Cheers!!!

Posted by: Mark at November 11th, 2018 11:26 PM

Thank you Reason for your report.

@Helga

Wonder which version of Aging.ai you have used (they have 3 versions). Have you also tried to use the Phenotype Age calculator based on the new Levine's and Horvath's clock and your biomarkers I posted here:
https://www.longecity.org/forum/topic/94249-biological-age/?view=findpost&p=862525

Would be interesting to compare results.

Posted by: albedo at November 13th, 2018 3:58 AM

@ albedo I have always used the 33 input parameter of aging ai, I use the same to compare.
I have listened to Steve Horvath at the Undoing Aging conference, I had the impression that we are not quite there yet. My main goal is to get an indication, a trend.

Posted by: helga at November 13th, 2018 1:17 PM

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