The Milken Institute's Longevity Innovators Interviews

The Milken Institute has published a set of interviews with a variety of scientists and non-scientists on topics of human longevity. A few these are of interest to those of who would like to see a fast path to rejuvenation therapies unfold in the years ahead. Some of the others illustrate a point I made last week, which is that while all that really needs to happen in this field is for the biotechnologies of rejuvenation to be developed, and as quickly and directly as possible, there are those who feel that the sociological aspects of human longevity must be talked to death in advance. Thus broader advocacy initiatives tend to pull in all sorts of figures who have nothing useful to say about the practical challenges of funding and developing rejuvenation therapies, but who are instead more concerned with how people feel about the topic, or the reaction of the endless rolling bane that is politics, or good health practices in the absence of rejuvenation therapies, or other line items that really, truly, do not matter at the end of the day.

If the therapies are built, the peoples of the world will quickly adapt, just as they have for any number of past revolutionary advances, and no-one will give much thought to all who felt that there should have been more discussion beforehand. If the therapies are not built, then we all suffer and die, and no-one will give much thought to all who felt that there should have been more discussion beforehand. The primary focus should be on the building, not the talking. This, of course, is not a popular point of view. One counterargument is that the sort of broad advocacy that involves a lot of talk that I'd consider largely irrelevant to the task at hand is in fact necessary in order to win the support of the public, or at least the largest and most conservative sources of funding, organizations that follow the tide of opinion makers rather than striking out in the right direction regardless. Whether or not this is the case is an interesting question, but larger advocacy initiatives all tend to proceed as though it were, and are arguably led by people who know a lot more about advocacy at scale than I do.

My impression of the past few decades of progress is that we started moving a lot faster once the first rejuvenation therapies were robustly demonstrated in the laboratory, but the details of that progress may or may not support my suggested view of the world above. In any case, I'll draw your attention here to the interviews with Laura Deming and Jim Mellon, both investors in the field of rejuvenation biotechnology, and the former a scientist who has studied aging in addition. As people who are helping to fund the research and development, they are among those who have interesting things to say on the topic. But do glance at the other interviews as well; you may find them interesting regardless.

Laura Deming: Healthspan, Not Lifespan

How can we make longevity an essential topic for potential investors?

I think that problem is actually already solved. People in the financial community, at least right now, are rapidly investing or interested in the space. That's the complete opposite of eight years ago, when nobody wanted to put capital into it. One thing that's been helpful is that companies either get access to the public markets or get started with less capital from well-earned means, and these two events have really raised the profile with the field. Going forward, I think what will be helpful is for longevity researchers to make better strides in science. I think the most important thing will be getting that first longevity-specific drug into the hands of patients. Once we see a drug from this area of science that actually produces a measurable benefit to patients that they could not have gotten otherwise, that will be the largest invite to new investors.

What do you think are the main reasons for scientists focusing on increasing healthy lifespan?

One big driver has been that nobody wants just to increase lifespan. It's nobody's idea of a good plan. It's kind of fascinating, because I think in the early days of the field, we didn't really understand what it was that we wanted to optimize for. But now it's very clear to everyone that we should be focusing on increasing the healthy part of the life, not just maximum lifespan in an old, decrepit state.

Jim Mellon: Investing in the Growing Longevity Market

Can you assess the current climate of longevity science? Is the market ready for this opportunity?

The market is now ripe for development. The excitement over rapalogs and senolytics, in particular, is helping, as is the prospect of the metformin trial, TAME. I expect that in the next year a lot of venture capital and possibly public funding will flow the way of longevity science. I think we are at about the internet of 1995 in terms of development.

How does the message of Juvenescence apply to nations that have yet to confront the challenges of population aging?

This will be one of the challenges of our age. Africa is the only place in the world where populations continue to grow rapidly. There is no reason why the life expectancy of Africans on average won't reach at least 100 within 30 years. Policymakers really need to drill down into this.

Are there other ways, besides taking your view of aging as a disease, that might increase government and corporate-funded research into aging?

Yes, we must improve our collective lobbying. The best way to do this is to point out the inevitability of pension scheme failures if governments don't recognize the ultra-longevity that is coming soon - and quickly.

How are younger workers affected when older employees remain on the job past the traditional retirement age?

The nature of work will have to change. As Joan Ruff of the AARP has said, older workers will not only be hired, they will be required. I believe that there will be plenty of work for all, it will just be different. Don't get caught up in the gloom of automation. Just be observant of trends.


"But do glance at the other interviews as well"

Eeeeek!! Deepak Chopra!!

Posted by: Antonio at November 16th, 2018 4:00 PM

In some hyper-regulated economy, where like to become a lumberjack, a current lumberjack has to die or retire, and no new industries or technologies are ever allowed - that country would have to worry about people working longer than expected.

But in a free society there is no limits to the opportunities available. I remember not that long ago software programmers were saying they were doomed as yet more people were going to school to learn programming. I felt then that more programmers would mean more creativity, and more new opportunities that if anything would increase the wages in time.

Posted by: aa3 at November 17th, 2018 1:00 AM

Hi there,

Reading this is so depressing but at least, there, is, a (small) light of hope; just not the one we hoped.
But, it's better than Nothing at all. But, sometimes, I feel we are regressing rather than advancing or, actually, stagnating is the more appropriate word here.

I understand that, now, it is a race to stop 'diseases/health degradation' in very old age, which I understand the imperativity since elderly people are elderly right now and thus, closest to death; and, thus require immediate help/are the ones requiring the help, now and the most (at least for now), to further their lifespans in very old age. But, between you and me, it won't be all that much, what it will be is health improvement which will lead to a somewhat longer lifespan. Say, 10 or so extra years in decent health. Maybe 20, hopefully, but so far nothing gives that much.

Which, when you really look at it, is pittance crumbs; but, at least we are tending to them. It is just that, there is no magic for complete reversal of aging at that advanced age.

Rejuvenation is all about Keeping Young, that is what it is, and is, at the basis, a Young body aimed solution; not an old one where the damages are very hard to revert and 'freeze' enough to stall aging process (even that is nearly 100% sure will not happen, stalled a bit yes, but totally, doubtful; thus, most likely, aging will still end up winnning in the end; one micro-second and one nano-damage at a time (death, slowly but surely/(slow) death by a 1000 needles (stings).

I am not saying we should not aim to revert aging in the most very old, I am saying this is the hardest part; stopping aging in younger body is more feasible than in an old body. And, is not technically, the same to say: if you revert aging in young body, it will be the same in an old one; it is more complicated than that and reverting aging from an old body is, obviously, the epitome of aging reversal but, also, the hardest to accomplish.

I find it sad that the investors are just axing their energies (and monies) into investing in 'health' improvement and not much longevity thought. Basically, the mindset of these investors is not a bad one per say, it is understandable : prevent health decline in old age and help old people obtain a more healthy period of life and thus 'late stage' of life; and then die normally 'of age'. You want to offer elderly people are more pain-free and disease-free (near) end of life and have them get maybe 10 or 20 years extra of healthy lifespan. That is very commendable. But, it stops there.

It is also small-minded, small-achieving (yes, you read right, small achieving in the Grand Scheme of things), and - in the long run - the wrong approach (in the short term it is good approach not long term and future generations-thinking wise). Thus, a band-aid 'patching' low solution, bleeding will continue, and death too.

How can investors be so unaware and oblivious on purpose (they will say we are just outlandish with our visions, they will always say that they are ethically at ease with their own impeding death as in: 'accept it you will die, everyone else too, don't fight it'),

this is the old 'I want to die rich' because dying rich is better than living a longer lifespan - with less money. Makes me think of the 'die a hero' not a '(still) living (on) (honorless) selfish coward'.

Investors think that there is nothing that can be done about longevity and maximum lifespan increase; probably, they think LEV is baloney bs, they are not so far from the truth but rejuvenation intends to prove them wrong and I feel sad for them because many of them, will die; and that is because of their stubborn idiocy and, obvious, oblivious way of thinking about their life (as in, we all die, and that's that, so the sooner you accept it, the better you compose with it (your own mortality) and the faster you embrace your fatalism (I would say the faster you embrace and add your defeatism to that long (FATA)-List(e).

When you are 6 feet underground or 600o incinerated in a crematorium, your investor money is about as much, dust and in the 'after life' there is nothing (maybe paradise maybe not, most likely not) but black/void/oblivion. But, it seems it suits them well, being oblivious and all.

People are so capitalistic and materialistic, they don'T realize that a life is worth far more than pennies, or could be worth 1/10th of a penny and Still Be Worth More than the entire planet's riches. But, it seems not, it seems you are worth an amount of $$$ (just like in the old days of slavery or when 'buying a pet', how come a pet should cost 300$, it'S a animal life on which you cannot put a price; you are not a pet nor a slave nor 'for sale' nor worth 300$, 3cents, or 3 billion dollars, you/your life are invaluable just like a painting in an art museum and the people/govs need to understand that). That is the downfall of capitalism, we can put a price tag/tax/penny on anything, and everything, including the air your breathe, your daily ml pee count and the number of thoughts you have.

Welcome to 21st century where the 'piastre' dictates you live or die. I hope in the the future, we realize that it has abled great things but also has its limits and if we are to defeat aging (not just small improvement in health futile) and cure death, then we will all have to do serious rethinking and introspection. Because, otherwise, nothing will change and people will continue to die, on clock (and, just - maybe - we might have cured aging, but, only, very few will benefit from that; us, since we are, actually, open to that and wish that; instead of going against that current of thought and being all about 'death' because apparently, in these people's mind'; death is 'good').

Just a 2 cents.

Posted by: CANanonymity at November 17th, 2018 9:47 AM

I don't know how you could of read those two articles and had this kind of response. At least in the Laura Deming or Jim Mellon articles, that is. I didn't read the others yet, though I generally don't value what someone like Ezekiel Emmanuel has to say. That said, there isn't really anything said by Deming or Mellon that is out of line with most viewpoints here. Look at some of the quotes:

"But now it's very clear to everyone that we should be focusing on increasing the healthy part of the life, not just maximum lifespan in an old, decrepit state."

"To be clear, our focus should be on how to let people live a healthier life for longer. Our goal is not just to extend life to a big number of years, but also to accompany that with a parallel increase in the number of healthy years someone has."

The headline is bad and conveniently leaves out key words. She didn't say it was one or the other, and seemingly acknowledged the plan is both as they're pretty much linked together. I can't imagine anyone wanting it any other way.

She's saying things like NOT JUST lifespan, but healthspan too. Extend life to a big number of years accompanied by health. They go hand and hand together. I don't see much to be depressed about here.

Posted by: Ham at November 18th, 2018 10:01 AM

Hi Ham ! Thanks for the response. Just a 2 cents. I might have exaggerated a bit there, I guess I took the title ''Laura Deming: Healthspan, Not Lifespan '', too much at face value. And, you are right, it is more about focusing on healthspan than lifespan; but not necessarily leaving out lifespan either. It's just, as you said, worded like that it sounded so much like lifespan is not important anymore. When it is, very much so. It's almost as if is sounds a ''do you want 20 years of healthy life and you die at a 100-110'' or ''do you want to live to 250, decrepit'' ? I very well know that many won't care at all to living to 250 and Will prefer just getting a small 20, but a Good one and die like normal. Because, very few people want to suffer in old age (prefer to die if so because quality of life too compromised and just too in pain/not worth living). I am 100% for healthspan, I am just wary when they start to not focus as much energy on longevity elongation also because then it's like, ok you can forget about longevity extension for anytime soon; but, at least, we understand that they do wish to increase longevity and possibly, maximum lifespan. What I think they also need to understand and learn more of, is LEV and SENS and other methods, than just concentrating on health span improvement methods. Thus, invests in those too, not the ''Healthspan, Not Lifespan''. That title should be renamed to : ''Healthspan current focus, and, also, Lifespan Longevity''.

Many of these investors don't seem to understand much of the aging process and the whole point of why longevity and health are entwined and you must work on both front. It would be to explain them (they would probably say we are very well versed, but I digress; maybe not so versed after all and their investments have now turned more towards health improvements ends ( which is very great) but if we wish to have longevity happen (one day sooner than later) well the investors will have to invest (more) in longevity, and much sooner. I think it is great that they invest in healthspan, it's already better than no investment; but I feel they need to trust more the longevity domain which is the one we should very much look out for; the healthspan domain is nothing to write home about besides curing health problems (which is an achievement) but the buck stops there; it's not more than that.

As Reason said many times, this analogous to supplements or other forms of 'preventative' aging slowing etc that have 'small' endeavor in mind and curing all the disease is pretty amazing; the next is even more amazing, curing death/living however long you can, but it seems that does not seem very obvious to these many people. There is a saying 'go big or go home', well here, aiming higher is important, but they continuously underaim by wanting to patch things (they are being realistic (which I applaud)) but underaiming does not make much happen. Now we have senolytic therapies and stuff, that is a small step, but so far from what is aimed. That is why I am depressed when I read stuff like this. I remember years ago, each new study coming out 'was incredible'....''we made a mouse live 3 years !'' ''we made a fly live a full year!'' ''we stalled the cell aging process in a petri dish'' we hear... this..
It's as if, with time, we curbed our expectations and realized that maybe we overaimed, and we should now underaim, just to make sure we don,t deceive anyone later.

Just a 2 cents.

Posted by: CANanonymity at November 18th, 2018 6:20 PM

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