The UK is somewhat further ahead than the US when it comes to progress towards an official government policy on medical research and development aimed at increasing healthy longevity. A variety of groups are attempting to influence the political and bureaucratic class into seeing the benefits, and are doing so in a more organized and well supported fashion than is the case for US lobbying efforts. Today's article is an example of this sort of approach from the UK lobbying community.
For my part, I believe that meaningful success in such initiatives requires the first rejuvenation therapies to have been deployed in human trials, with solid evidence for significant benefits to result to patients. The best thing we can do at this stage of the new longevity industry is to robustly prove that approaches such as senolytics actually work in humans, and can reliably reverse age-related disease. Government institutions follow but slowly in the wake of technological progress. All large organizations and sizable sources of funding, particularly those run by governments, are very conservative, and rarely get involved until quite late in the process of developing new approaches to medicine.
One of humanity's greatest success stories of the past century is the increase in global life expectancy as a result of the social and medical advancements that have dramatically improved basic living conditions and reduced vulnerability to infectious diseases. However, longer lives haven't fully translated into healthier lives, and as we grow older the likelihood that we will live with debilitating chronic illness rises significantly. Beyond unacceptable personal suffering, this places extreme pressure on both health-care systems and the economic models of advanced economies.
However, a new frontier of science is emerging - longevity research, also referred to as geroscience - that is helping us understand the underlying biological mechanisms of how and why we age, with the potential to develop treatments that delay, prevent or even reverse the onset of ageing and multimorbidity. In short, the nature and speed of the ageing process, and the aches and pains that accompany it, may not be inevitable. If we can successfully intervene to ensure ageing is healthy for as long as possible, then the potential gains in personal, public and economic health would be enormous.
In this paper, we examine the public-health and economic imperative to act, look at some of the most promising areas of innovation in longevity research across academia and industry, and propose practical actions that governments should take to invigorate this critical but under-resourced area of science. Given the profound implications, we believe governments should set ambitious targets: the UK and other advanced economies should aim for "30 in 30" - to increase healthy life expectancy by 30 years (to approximately 95 years) by 2050. While our work is international in scope, we also include a case study on how the UK can play a global leadership role in longevity research and development. With its world-leading academic institutions, strong life-sciences industry, access to vast NHS data sets and a global financial hub in London, the UK is already primed to become a global leader in this nascent field.