Lobbying Efforts for the Development of Means to Treat Aging are at a Very Early Stage

That so many people turn their hand to lobbying government is a sad statement of the character of our era. Those engaged in getting things done start to feel, at some level of funding, that lobbying is a necessary defense on the one hand, against Big Pharma entities who will use regulators to impede and coerce competition, and on the other hand a way to access greater funding and publicity. The trough of public funds is ever an attractive proposition, and never as easy to access without tainting everything involved as people would like to think it is. A world with smaller, less powerful governments would be a world in which one could focus on the important matters, which is to say building the means to treat aging, creating the necessary technological capabilities.

We don't live in that world, unfortunately, and thus a good many people see the first step in advocacy to be petitioning for increases in government funding - as though the National Institute on Aging (NIA) is in any way the place where meaningful progress towards the treatment of aging as a medical condition is taking place. It isn't. The important work presently takes place in some combination of philanthropically funded scientific projects and venture funded biotech companies.

For those who are interested in lobbying as a way forward, today's commentary makes it clear that the present state of efforts is rudimentary, barely underway as assessed in the grand scheme of things. The existence of the opportunity to treat aging as a medical condition is hardly even recognized in those portions of the corridors of power and influence concerned with biotech lobbying. This is somewhat interesting to note, as efforts of one sort or another have been underway for the better part of two decades in the US. Consider the Longevity Dividend attempts to increase NIA funding, or the various non-profit lobbying groups emerging from the early longevity community, such as the Global Healthspan Policy Institute and Alliance for Longevity Initiatives.

Still, today is different from ten years past because a great deal of funding is now involved, and an industry exists. That changes the players and the calculus. Ten years from now, I'd imagine that we'll see a lot more political lobbying and political graft in the longevity field, making it much more like the current status quo between Big Pharma and government, for better or worse.

Cambrian Bio: Launching A Prevention Policy Agenda

Prevention might be worth a pound of cure to the individual, but to the American healthcare innovators, cures are worth much more. It's a well-known axiom that America has a sick-care rather than a health care system. Our ultimate goal at Cambrian Bio is to develop primary preventive medicines, but the sick care system persists. So, we visited the Nation's capital. We talked to elected officials and administration experts, advocates and think tanks about the medicines Cambrian is developing and the challenges inherent in developing preventive medicines.

In policy circles, most people think of longevity science exclusively in terms of behavioral interventions. That's not terribly surprising given the popularity of shows like Limitless and the fact that medicines based on the biology of aging are just starting to make it into human trials. But even the prevention policy experts we spoke with hadn't heard about the possibility that life-extending medicines for mice could be tested in humans. Our Takeaway: We are very early. Those of us in the field need to continue talking about this work, but when we do, we need to assume our audience is starting from scratch. You'll see our policy blog go back to the basics, laying the groundwork to fill this gap.

Shifting demographics may be one of the most important reasons to invest in the prevention of aging-related diseases, but it may not be the most compelling argument in Washington ... yet. We'll keep thinking about this. In today's world, generating the data to prove effectiveness for FDA approval is essential but perhaps not sufficient. The drug development industry may need a new story to tell about how scientists, biotech, and pharma are creating more value for society with their medicines rather than just increasing healthcare costs. Granted, we're biased, but we think inexpensive preventative medicines will be a key lever to drive this point home and unlock support for future innovation. As a field, we believe we have a good story to tell and we think the time is ripe for that pivot.

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