The Key to Ultimate Health: Bioresilience

The Key to Ultimate Health: Bioresilience

This essay proposes increasing and sustaining bioresilience as a method to achieve low mortality rates, much longer healthy lifespans and, eventually, ultimate health.

Let’s envision a model for healthy, functional longevity based on evaluating and improving the body’s bioresilience.

Bioresilience is the body’s capacity to respond to stress. One way to visualize bioresilience is to imagine a WeebleTM, the toy that self-centers when pushed. Evolution selects for increasing bioresilience, and it and so effective during youth that we notice it more by its decline after midlife when recovery from biologic stress—be it a late night, hangover, jet lag, cough, injury, wound, or a rollercoaster ride—diminishes. Our tolerance of environmental variation, such as changes in temperature or altitude, weakens. Our pupils respond inadequately to changes in light, so menus are harder to read at dinner.

Now consider objective changes that we can’t feel. When we are young, our bioresilience returns elevated blood pressure, glucose, and inflammation to baseline. As we age, those levels may no longer self-tune sufficiently, leading to hypertension, diabetes, and inflammation, respectively. If loss of bioresilience is a common framework that helps explain the diverse features of aging, could enhancing the body’s bioresilience mitigate the aging process and promote healthy, functional longevity

For acute ailments such as trauma and infection, restoring the body to original equilibrium is paramount. For chronic conditions such as aging, however, forcing the body back to the original equilibrium treats the symptom but fails to solve the underlying problem. Furthermore, medically propping up the body’s equilibrium—akin to propping up a Weeble—induces atrophy of bioresilience and progressive addiction to therapy. Many economic stakeholders benefit from this Whack-a-MoleTM approach to aging, but this approach also creates an ever-older population that consumes more health care, creating an unsustainable, vicious cycle of cost escalation. For aging (and other chronic diseases), we propose shifting the goal to increasing bioresilience as a path to ultimate health. This small conceptual change has radical implications.

For instance, hypertension today is typically treated with medications to lower blood pressure. But taking such medications chronically can reduce our bodies’ intrinsic ability to regulate blood pressure. Moreover, our bodies can build up a tolerance to antihypertensive medications, requiring us to take ever greater doses to achieve the same results. Instead, could low intermittent doses of prohypertensive interventions promote bioresilience and lower baseline blood pressure, similar to the way exercise creates stresses to our hearts and muscles in order to improve them? More generally, could “eustress” (i.e., capacity-building stress) be used to paradoxically promote bioresilience as a way to ameliorate chronic diseases? Such counterintuitive approaches are already validated by exercise, ischemic reconditioning, muscle training, and vaccination.

With bioresilience building as the new goal, we advocate everyday lifestyle interventions that help to stretch our dynamic range by emphasizing variance over fixed habits: meditation coupled with exhilaration; variations of exercise; exposure to a range of environments such as temperature, sunlight, and altitude; periods of fasting associated with a diet that itself is based on variation rather than narrow recommendations. We encourage exploration of many other forms of eustress that can build up our bioresilience.

Our goal through the Palo Alto Prize series is to identify and ultimately change the genes and pathways involved in the erosion of natural bioresilience as a way to mitigate the aging process and promote healthy, functional longevity. To accelerate progress, we need to fundamentally change our thinking on how to measure biology. Dynamic systems such as biology cannot be studied effectively with static models. Yet modern science has largely relied on point-in-time static biomarkers to assess our health.

Annual checks of heart rate, blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol levels to assess health risks are tantamount to a seismic engineer relying on the degree of leaning, instead of the more valuable stress testing, to predict collapse risk from an earthquake.

For example, baseline heart rate changes little with age, while heart rate recovery time after exercise (which is a dynamic measure of the heart’s capacity) correlates with age. We also advocate the development of a broader array of dynamic diagnostic tests with capabilities for high-frequency sampling and stress testing to add a fourth dimension to the field of diagnostics—time. The advent of fitness-tracking wearables, which collect biometric data continuously, may usher in tremendous opportunities in the coming years.

The aging field is in its infancy. The end of aging would be the end of healthcare as we now know it. The feed-forward relationship between healthcare innovation and increasing future consumption of healthcare would finally be decoupled. Ifbioresilience is sustained, humans could persist at low annual mortality rates currently enjoyed by young adults. Healthy lifespan could telescope to a number of years that might have once seemed unimaginable. Human capacity would thus be unleashed.

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On September 9, 2014 we announced the Palo Alto Prize, a $1M initiative to foster innovations that will ultimately help people live significantly healthier and longer lives as a result of better health. The initiative was designed to have two parts, a $500,000 Longevity Demonstration Prize and a $500,000 Homeostatic Capacity Prize.

Historically, incentive prizes have proven to be a very effective tool to foster innovation in specific areas of science and discovery. They create problem-solving ecosystems. The ecosystem works because the prize purse and target pull innovation towards a specific goal while also attracting minds, media and money to help push from all sides. When all cylinders are firing amazing things can happen, entire industries can be created, we discover new heroes, and public opinion changes forever.

Today, we are excited to announce the names of the ten teams that have officially registered for the $500,000 Palo Alto Longevity Demonstration Prize, a three year global competition co-created and sponsored by Dr. Joon Yun that challenges teams from all over the world to “hack the aging code” to improve our health and extend lifespan.

Here is a quick intro video about the prize:

Each of the 10 teams (listed below with videos of their approaches) are from top universities and private labs from North America and all over the world. They have a wide range of proposed approaches to win the prize including (but not limited to) stem cells, genetic modification, modified messenger RNA encoding telomerase, modulation of peripheral metabolism, PAI-1 signaling, antioxidants/free radicals, and manipulation of nested biorhythms. The first of the following ten teams to demonstrate a method of extending the lifespan of an animal by 50% will win the prize.

We would like to thank Dr. Joon Yun for his support and leadership in launching this effort. Without visionary philanthropists like Dr. Yun prizes like the Palo Alto Prize would not be possible. Dr. Yun is the President of Palo Alto Investors, LLC and the founder of the Palo Alto Institute, a nonprofit think-tank that has been providing operational support for the Palo Alto Prize. As a medical doctor and healthcare investor, Dr. Yun has a unique perspective into medicine and the state of the industry. And while he believes that the current healthcare system is doing a remarkable job of addressing the diseases of aging, he helped launch the prize because he believes that “Addressing the diseases of aging without solving the underlying process of aging produces escalating effects on health care spending.”

We created the Race Against Time Foundation in order to raise public awareness and financial support for basic biomedical research related to increasing our health span and defining the fundamental biological mechanisms that prevent age-related diseases and disabilities. Based on the exponential rate of medical breakthroughs, we believe the question is not ifwe can crack the aging code and solve all major health challenges — but whenwill it happen. We are in a race against time and it is up to us if to decided if that timeframe is 5 years, 50 years or 500 years.

What can you do to get involved?

The best way that you can get involved is to support science and support the scientists. Take a look at each of our team profiles and reach out to them directly. Every day millions of scientists work to make our lives better. They are society’s real super heroes. These heroes work tirelessly to create and design everything around us, from rocket ships, to clean water filters, to cures for disease. Many of these heroes (like our teams) are dedicating their lives to research that will lead to discoveries that will increase our health span by helping us all live healthier and longer lives. Please support a scientist today!

We are excited to see what the teams come up with, but we also know that this prize is just one shot on goal. We encourage more public and private prizes and other industry efforts to help move the industry forward.

Keith Powers
Race Against Time & Hero Science Foundation
PS. We would also like to thank all of our amazing advisors who helped make this prize possible and who lend their time and their names to move the longevity field forward. Full list at the end of this post below.

Teams participating in the Longevity Demonstration Prize:

THI REGENERATIVE RESEARCH TEAM Doris Taylor, Ph.D Houston, TX Stem cells Texas Heart Institute, Houston, TX

“Now is the time to launch this prize because we have reached the point in science where we really do have the opportunity to solve aging,” Doris Taylor, Ph.D

Houston Methodist Center for Cardiovascular Regeneration
Houston Methodist Center for Cardiovascular Regeneration Houston Methodist Center for Cardiovascular Regeneration…
cover copy

“The Palo Alto Prize has galvanized our scientific community to think hard about how our fundamental insights into the mechanisms of aging can be leveraged toward transformative therapies.” John P. Cooke, M.D., Ph.D.

AjoChhand Anirban Bandyopadhyay, Ph.D. Prof Snehasikta Swarnakar, IICB, Kolkata, India Chi-Sang Poon, MIT, USA Subrata…

“The Palo Alto Prize has galvanized our scientific community to think hard about how our fundamental insights into the mechanisms of aging can be leveraged toward transformative therapies.” Anirban Bandyopadhyay, Ph.D.

SEKHAR LAB Rajagopal V Sekhar, M.D. Houston, TX Correct /prevent GSH deficiency Baylor College of Medicine N/A Dr…

“We are excited to be part of the Palo Alto Longevity Competition. The true prize is longevity, and we are sure that through the collective efforts of all teams, this will be a win for humankind”. Rajagopal V Sekhar, M.D.

Toor Lab
Toor Lab Navtej Toor, Ph.D. La Jolla, California Genetic Modification UC San Diego N/A Navtej Toor, Ph.D. is an…

“We now have the tools of molecular biology to treat the biochemical basis of aging by targeting many of the known pathways involved in this process.” Navtej Toor, Ph.D.

Vaughan Lab
Team PAIthon Douglas E Vaughan, M.D. Chicago, IL PAI-1 Signaling Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine N…

“The biology of aging is becoming more evident every day that goes by. We are understanding that there are specific changes about cells and tissues as they age, and that there are markers that aging cells make and it’s possible to identify those molecules and theoretically slow down the aging process.” Douglas E Vaughan, M.D.

Generation X
Generation X Gareth Ackland, Ph.D. London,UK Modulation of peripheral metabolism University College London, UK

SUN LAB Liou Sun, M.D. Ph.D. Genetic and dietary intervention SIU School of Medicine…


MUNICH Christine Guenther, M.D. Munich, Germany Stem Cells apceth GmbH & Co.KG N/A Christine Guenther, MD; CEO & CMO…

“Next generation cell-based therapies delivering therapeutic agents to impaired organs may change the life of many people.” Christine Guenther, M.D.

Advisors to the Longevity Demonstration Prize:

DAVID ARRINGTON, Chief Branding Officer, Stanford Medicine
SONIA ARRISON, Author, 100 Plus
BEN BARRES, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman, Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University
ALBERT CHA, Managing Partner, Vivo Ventures
STACEY CHANG, Director, Healthcare Practice at IDEO
CHARLES CHO, M.D., Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Stanford University
CASPER DECLERCQ, Partner, Norwest Ventures
AUBREY DE GREY, Ph.D, Chief Science Officer, SENS Foundation
LAURA DEMING, Founder, Longevity Fund
KERRY DOLAN, Assistant Managing Editor, Forbes
JAMES DOTY, M.D., Professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University Founder and Director of CCARE
FREDERICK DOTZLER, Managing Director, De Novo Ventures
VICTOR DZAU, M.D., President, National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences
PATRICK ENRIGHT, Founder and Managing Director, Longitude Capital
FRANK FISCHER, President and CEO, Neuropace, Inc.
JIM GLASHEEN, Ph.D.,General Partner, Technology Partners
JANELL GOTTESMAN, Founder Physio-Insight and Milieu Institute
BOB HARRINGTON, M.D., Chairman, Department of Medicine, Stanford University
STEVE HERROD, Managing Director, General Catalyst Partners
HOYOUNG HUH, Managing Director, Konus Advisory Group
WAYNE JONAS, M.D., former Chief of the Office of Alternative Medicine, NIH
REESE JONES, Associate Founder, Singularity University; Trustee, Santa Fe Institute
STEVE JURVETSON, Managing Director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson
NINA KJELLSON, Managing Director, Interwest Ventures
GARHENG KONG, M.D., MBA, Managing General Partner, Sofinova Ventures
FRANK LONGO, M.D., Chairman, Department of Neurology & Neurological Sciences, Stanford University
JOSH MAKOWER, M.D., Founder and CEO, ExploraMed
MICHAEL MCCULLOUGH, M.D., Principal, Capricorn Healthcare & Special Opportunities
DAN MOORE, President and CEO, Cyberonics, Inc.
BARBARA NATTERSON-HOROWITZ, M.D., Professor of Medicine, UCLA Division of Cardiology
OLEG NODELMAN, Managing Partner, EcoR1 Capital
GUY P. NOHRA, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Alta Partners
KEITH POWERS, President, Engaged Partners, Former EVP of Strategy, X PRIZE Foundation
ROGER J. QUY, Ph.D., General Partner, Technology Partners
LEIGHTON READ, MD, Venture Partner, Alloy Ventures, Trustee, Santa Fe Institute
AMIR RUBIN, President and CEO of Stanford Hospital & Clinic
GRAHAM SPENCER, General Partner, Google Ventures, Trustee, Santa Fe Institute
KEVIN STARR, Partner, Third Rock Ventures
CAMI SAMUELS, Partner, Venrock
STEVE VASSALLO, General Partner, Foundation Capital
CHARLES WARDEN, Managing Director, Versant Ventures
ERIC WEINSTEIN, Managing Director, Thiel Capital

Who Will be First to “Hack the Code” of Aging?

Who Will be First to “Hack the Code” of Aging?


Who Needs A Body Anyway?

martine-rothblattMartine Rothblatt is many things—CEO of biotech company United Therapeutics, founder of Sirius Radio, inventor, lawyer, and medical ethicist—but foremost, she is a futurist. Specifically, Rothblatt believes in transhumanism, or the indefinite extension of human life through technology.

As a result of the growing ubiquity of digital devices, I believe that all of our mannerisms, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes—everything about our lives—will be collected and stored in the cloud. We are creating a simu­lacrum of ourselves outside our bodies. I call this our “mindfile.”

At the same time, we’re developing ever-better digital assistants that use voice recognition and artificial intelligence. They even have different personalities, like Siri. I call this software “mindware.” And I think the convergence of mindfiles and mindware will produce a seemingly conscious replica of any person—a “mindclone.”

One of the projects my company has been working on is a cognitive enabler for Alzheimer’s disease. An individual beginning to suffer would be able to store enough personality and recollections digitally that, when combined with a camera and voice recognition, he or she can interact with friends and family through the technology—even once no longer able to do so through his or her own brain.

This very naturally leads to the question, how good does an enabler have to be before it is considered part and parcel with the person itself? And when the person’s body finally succumbs, does the enabler claim legal rights?

People have always been afraid of things that are different and weird. But when the weirdness of cyberconsciousness blends with the love for family members, people will see cyberconsciousness as innocuous. By 2030, I believe there will be a social movement of people whose grandmother, sister, or friend has a fatal disease, and who say their mindclones should be legally recognized as a continuation of themselves.

Ultimately, the Internet of Things will enable mind­­clones to travel, present themselves ever more freely and with greater ubiquity, and even transcend legal death. —As told to Matt Giles

The Scientific Quest to Cure Aging

The Scientific Quest to Cure Aging

 ASHLEY WELCH | CBS NEWS | January 27, 2016, 6:00 AM


It’s a pursuit that seems more like the plot of a science fiction movie than an actual goal of serious researchers around the world. But a number of scientists are fiercely working toward what was once only attainable in fables and fairy tales: they want to end aging.

The quest has even inspired a competition with a monetary prize from that hub of innovation, Silicon Valley. The Palo Alto Longevity Prize, founded by Dr. Joon Yun, a radiologist who heads Palo Alto Investors, is offering $1 million in prize money as a way to urge researchers figure out how to “hack the code” of aging.

While those in the growing field of longevity research admit the task at hand is expansive and complex, they say big advancements have already been made and expect to see more in the near future.

“The goal is similar to all medical research which is to make people healthier and keep people alive longer so we can have more productive lives and not be such a burden to society,” David Sinclair, Ph.D., a professor of genetics and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at the Harvard Medical School, told CBS News.

The Australian-born biologist, who sits on the board of the Palo Alto Longevity Prize, discovered in 2013 that Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), a chemical found in every living organism, can turn on defenses against aging, though its levels decrease the older we grow.

Sinclair envisions a time — maybe not too far away — when doctors will prescribe medicine utilizing these findings to curb aging.

“We are finding genes and molecules that we can take as a pill that would slow down every disease from Alzheimer’s to diabetes to cancer plus give us more energy during our whole lives,” he said. “Side effects would be living longer, but the ultimate goal is there will be a future — maybe it’s only a decade or two away — where people won’t have to worry about getting these diseases in their 60s or 70s but can put that off to 100 or 110.”

The Palo Alto Prize is meant to inspire and reward such innovations. The competition was announced in 2014 and final registration closed this past December. Winning research teams in two different categories — who will be awarded $500,000 each — are expected to be announced by the end of 2019.

The roughly 30 teams that are participating in the competition are taking a broad range of approaches, from stem cell therapies to gene modification to hormonal treatments to behavioral and nutritional interventions. Because of the nature of the competition, specifics about each project have not been disclosed to the public, but videos are available on the contest’s website with teams introducing their research.

Quality versus quantity

Yun is quick to point out that the aim of most of longevity research — and the ultimate goal of the Palo Alto competition — is not simply to extend life in terms of sheer number of years lived, but to enhance quality of life, as well. He explains this in terms of homeostatic capacity, which refers to the body’s natural ability to fight off stressors in order to remain healthy.

“Homeostatic capacity is probably nature’s greatest gift. It’s our ability to self-tune in response to stressors,” he told CBS News. “It is so pervasively effective that we don’t even realize we have it until we start losing it.”

Yun went on to explain that when we’re young and healthy, we don’t even notice it. “That is the true definition of health,” he said. “When you’re feeling healthy, you’re feeling nothing because you’re in homeostasis. That’s very different from what marketers try to say, that healthy means vitality and energy.”

Then, after about the age of 40, our homeostatic capacity starts to decline. “We’re more vulnerable to the forces of aging. All of a sudden you’re finding that your body can’t get back to homeostasis on its own,” Yun said. “It’s hard to ride roller coasters. It’s hard to recover from injuries, from a late night, from jet lag. Foods we may have once loved, we are no longer able to tolerate. All of this happens at once, and these are all things everyone can feel. But think of all the things you can’t feel.”

He gave the example that when people are young and healthy and their blood pressure or sugar level is high, the body brings itself back to homeostasis on its own. But as we age, the body loses this ability.

“We give these things names like diabetes and hypertension,” he said. “But maybe it’s all really the same process that is the decline of homeostatic capacity.”

When asked why he set up the competition to find ways to solve these problems of aging, rather than invest the money directly into research, Yun said he thinks the nature of a contest yields the best results.

“What’s wonderful about prizes is that you set a goal and you’re essentially inviting a diversity of options to compete and see which one wins,” he said. “It’s very much like how nature and evolution work.”

“What is it that you’re living for?”

But not everyone thinks the quest to cure aging is well-founded or wise. Several prominent bioethicists have spoken out against such efforts to extend longevity.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, is among them. In 2014, Emanuel penned a controversial article for the Atlantic titled “Why I Hope to Die at 75.”

“I think it’s fascinating that so many people are obsessed with living long,” he told CBS News. “If you ask most people about quality versus quantity of life, they will say in a second that quality is what’s really important. And then you probe and you find that people are so psychologically scared of dying and not having lived out a meaningful life. But when you talk to older people, many of them are sort of tired of life. They’ve lost friends and loved ones or activities are restricted and maybe it’s not so great after all.”

For Emanuel, such frank discussions with older adults and time spent in self-reflection led him to the decision that he does not aspire to an exceptionally long life and would not take steps to extend it.

In the Atlantic article, Emanuel, who is in good health in his late 50s, made clear that he is not looking to end his life through suicide or euthanasia. Rather, at 75, he believes he will be content enough with his life to not actively try to prolong it. “I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive,” he wrote.

“The real issue is what makes a meaningful life,” he told CBS News. “Is it living as long as you can or is there something else going on? If you ask me, it’s the something else we really ought to care about. What is it that you’re living for?”

When asked about the views expressed by longevity researchers that their work focuses not just on extending years lived, but on increasing quality of life, Emanuel answered with plenty of skepticism.

“How are you going to cure all of the causes of death?” he asked. “That’s kind of a way for scientists to rationalize what they’re doing. I can understand that it’s an interesting puzzle to solve and many people are passionate about it, but I don’t think it’s something we ought to be doing.”

Of course, longevity researchers vehemently disagree and say such objections are misguided.

“What we’re talking about is being able to prevent and treat the major diseases of society,” Sinclair said. “Cancer at one point in human history was totally natural. Heart disease was unavoidable. Nobody now would say, ‘Oh, cancer is natural and we shouldn’t work on it.’ We use our technology to lead better lives and make the world a better place and improve the human condition and that’s what we’re aiming to do here.”


El Combate Antiedad De Silicon Valley

Los multimillonarios del valle tecnológico tienen un nuevo objetivo: duplicar nuestra esperanza de vida y plantar cara a dolencias como el párkinson o el cáncer. Hablamos de células madre, genética, virus y nanorrobots con los inversores y cientí!cos que lideran la búsqueda del elixir de la juventud

Texto ! María ovelar fotos ! Adam whitehead
Realización ! Svetlana tanakina

La comparativa podría ilustrar un manual de Biología del colegio. «El ser humano es como un coche, si reparamos el daño acumulado y lo mantenemos en buen estado, seguirá marchando correctamente. El organismo está programado para funcionar bien cuando el deterioro es mínimo. Arreglarlo cuando se ha roto es más complicado», opina Aubrey de Grey, un gerontólogo y biomédico inglés.

Las consecuencias de su teoría no son tan sencillas. Podrían cambiarlo todo. «La esperanza de vida indefinida no es un imposible. Todavía no sabemos cuánto más viviremos, pero ya se habla de hasta los 1.000 años», insiste este investigador de la Universidad de Cambridge y añade: «Envejecer se debe a la acumulación de los efectos negativos del metabolismo. Estos daños son los que nos terminan matando. Alargar la esperanza de vida pasa por prevenir enfermedades y gozar de buena salud».

No es el único científico empeñado en encontrar el elixir de la eterna juventud. Cynthia Kenyon, una bióloga molecular, el #sico surcoreano Joon Yun o la bióloga Anne Wojcicki, compiten en la misma carrera. Detrás de estos visionarios, que algunos tildan de locos, están varios multimillonarios de Silicon Valley. «Hay que pensar a lo grande, solo los optimistas decidirán el futuro», opina Peter Thiel, cofundador de PayPal y uno de los primeros inversores de Facebook.

Desde 2004, año en el que Thiel vendió PayPal a eBay, ha desembolsado millones de dólares en proyectos relacionados con la longevidad. La fortuna de este filántropo ronda los 2.200 millones de dólares (1.761 millones de euros), según Forbes. «Dicen que la muerte es algo natural, que es parte de la vida, no estoy de acuerdo. En mi opinión es un problema con solución científica», remata.

Google, Facebook, Napster y Netscape son otras de las compañías detrás de este objetivo. «Lo importante del fenómeno Silicon Valley es su interés por desentra- ñar los mecanismos moleculares del envejecimiento como vía para encontrar fármacos para enfermedades mortales», dice María Blasco, directora del Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas (Cnio).

  • ¿Cuáles son sus armas?
    En estas empresas no solo hay científicos, también informáticos y emprendedores. Están acostumbrados a manejar millones de datos, a interpretarlos y gestionarlos con un fin y a traducirlos en tecnología. Su enfoque es diferente: aplican la filoso#a de las puntocom al problema de la muerte. «Los investigadores se centran en descubrir cosas, pero luego no saben qué hacer con sus conclusiones. Resultado: los avances no llegan. Los ingenieros, en cambio, somos más creativos y buscamos maneras de usar esa información», explica De Grey a S Moda.
  • ¿Qué analizan? Algunas
    empresas están estudiando la genética de las especies con una larga longevidad para prolongar la vida (Human Longevity); otras fabrican nanorrobótica microscópica capaz de reparar el organismo desde dentro (The Brain Preservation Foundation). También hay quien trabaja en reprogramar el ADN


años. Investigadores como Yun vaticinan que ya hay una persona entre nosotros que alcanzará los 1.000 años de edad: será un millennial (nacido entre 1982 y 2000)


millón de dólares. El concurso Palo Alto premia con esa suma a quien logre que vivamos mejor y de manera saludable durante más de 122 años.


más de vida. El equipo del CNIO logró alargar en ese porcentaje la vida de los ratones rejuveneciendo los telómeros con telomerasa, una enzima.

del ser humano para hacernos más resistentes (Genentech) y quien intenta digitalizar el cerebro basándose en la teoría de que la mente puede vivir más que nuestro cuerpo (Human Brain Project).

Neurociencia, células madre, organismos modificados genéticamente, virus…; su campo de investigación es muy extenso.

  • Matrimonio de conveniencia. El idilio entre las tecnológicas y la ciencia se escribe en primera persona. Sobran las historias personales. Sean Parker, cofundador de Napster, padece alergias mortales. Además, algunos de sus familiares sufren trastornos autoinmunes. Parker ha donado millones a la industria farmacéutica contra estas dolencias. También contra el cáncer. Sergey Brin, padre de Google, porta una mutación del gen LRRK2 relacionada con una mayor incidencia del párkinson. Brin ha donado 150 millones de dólares a esta causa. También sobran los lazos matrimoniales. Varios multimillonarios de las puntocom están casados con científicas, como el propio Brin: su mujer, Anne Wojcicki, preside 23andMe, una firma especializada en tests genéticos. Otra pareja de oro: Mark Zuckenberg, el presidente de Facebook, y Priscilla Chan, pediatra en el Hospital General de San Francisco. Su Breakthrough Prize premia con tres millones de dólares anuales a investigadores que trabajen en estrategias para alargar la vida.


«Según nuestras investigaciones, la salud depende de la capacidad homeostática, del poder del organismo de curarse y autorregularse ante factores externos e internos como el estrés», explica Yun. Y añade: «Esta capacidad cae tras la senescencia reproductiva; estamos investigando cómo aumentarla».

Solo para inmortales.

«El sistema de salud cura la enfermedad y ayuda a vivir más, pero no trata el envejecimiento. Las desventajas: los costes son elevados y arruinarán y colapsarán el sistema. Además, la mayoría terminará muriendo de viejo. El !n, por tanto, debe ser vivir siempre con buena salud», opina Yun.

01. pulseras MÁGIcas

Dos gigantes tecnológicos se unieron en 2013 para «concebir procedimientos que permitan vivir más y de manera más saludable». Detrás de Calico (California Life Company), están el conocido buscador y Arthur D. Levinson, presidente de Apple. «Estudian el envejecimiento a nivel molecular porque están convencidos de que ese proceso es el causante de la mayoría de las enfermedades. Su misión es alargar el tiempo en el que el organismo es biológicamente joven», explica Blasco.

  • Inhibir el gen. Esta empresa de biotecnología ha fichado a Cinthia Kenyon, una estrella de la biología molecular. La estadounidense logró duplicar la esperanza de vida del gusano caenorhabditis elegans. ¿Cómo? Inhibiendo el gen daf-2, conocido como «gen de la muerte». Kenyon, por supuesto, pretende repetir la hazaña en humanos.
  • Partículas bondadosas. Aquí va otra de las iniciativas de Calico: el nanodiagnóstico. «Permitirá luchar contra cánceres mortales y complicados de detectar, como el de páncreas. Solo el 3% de los casos se descubren en su fase inicial», nos explican desde Google. El ingenio se basa en un wearable con un campo magnético. «Bastaría con ingerir una cápsula con nanopartículas magnéticas. Estas unidades pasarían al torrente sanguíneo. La idea es que estén diseñadas para adherirse a células cancerígenas. El wearable las atraería con su campo magnético y avisaría del problema», detallan.

02. banco de datos

Su victoria es paradigmática. Para muchos emprendedores de Silicon Valley, el genetista estadounidense Craig Venter es un ídolo.


La longevidad depende en un 20% de los genes y en un 80% de nuestro estilo de vida y de factores ambientales», nos recuerda Blasco

La panacea ‘antiaging’. «Ganó al Gobierno de EE UU en el proyecto de secuenciación del genoma humano [en 2001]. Ahora se ha propuesto adelantarse a Calico en la creación de fármacos que retrasen el envejecimiento y luchen contra enfermedades neurodegenerativas o cardiovasculares y contra el cáncer», explica Blasco. Una de las metas de su compañía Human Longevity (fundada en 2014) es crear un banco de un millón de secuencias del genoma humano antes del año 2020. Con esa información, entre la que se

AUBREY DEGREY headshotSiempre joven


¿El envejecimiento tiene solución médica?
Sí, como también la tienen el cáncer, el alzhéimer y otras enfermedades.

¿Qué terapia puede ayudar a esquivarlo?
Es mejor no hablar de un protocolo, sino de varios: la clave pasa por combinar tratamientos de células madre y genéticos con medicamentos.

Su idea es la siguiente: somos como un coche vintage, si invertimos tiempo en el mantenimiento, nuestra salud no fallará.

Todas las terapias de [mi fundación] SENS Research se centran en la prevención. El organismo está preparado para funcionar bien cuando acumula pocos daños. Así que solo necesitamos reparar las averías con frecuencia y bien para funcionar; como con un coche.

¿Qué proyecto de su institución destacaría? Estamos trabajando con una enzima bacteriana capaz de prevenir los ataques al corazón y los derrames. Esta sustancia rompe el colesterol oxidado, cuya acumulación produce arteriosclerosis. Estamos avanzando mucho, pero algunos descubrimientos tardarán 20 años en llegar.

¿Cuántos años más viviremos? Es difícil aventurar una cifra porque la muerte no depende de nuestra edad, sino de los factores que la causan. Pero… tal vez la persona que alcance los 1.000 años ya esté entre nosotros.

¿El negocio antiedad será el más grande del mundo? Lo será. Hoy se basa en fórmulas con una eficacia limitada y ya es enorme; imagine cuando lancemos productos en los que ya estamos trabajando, con muchos beneficios… Será un boom.

03. cantar victoria

Tienen sus detractores: «Me preocupa que la motivación de estos filántropos sea su ego y no el deseo por el bien plural», opinaba en el diario The Washington Post Laurie Zoloth, bioética de la Universidad de Northwestern.

  • ¿Con!icto moral? Antaño, siempre según este rotativo, el Gobierno estadounidense financiaba dos tercios de la investigación científica; hoy, detrás de ese porcentaje están organismos privados. El argumento de los críticos: a estos multimillonarios les faltan escrúpulos y les sobra impaciencia, quieren resultados ya. Pero al contrario del Estado, no deben dar cuentas a nadie. Otro dato importante: los sueldos y ayudas proporcionados por estos mecenas triplican los de organismos como las universidades. Google, por ejemplo, ha invertido 750 millones de dólares en Calico. La alegoría de esta lucha contrarreloj es Peter Thiel, para quien la muerte es «el gran enemigo de la humanidad». Thiel ha financiado proyectos como un sistema de refrigeración de órganos (que permite conservarlos indefinidamente; de la Fundación SENS) y una tecnología capaz de fabricar hueso a través de células madre (para sustituir los rotos; de la compañía EpiBone).
  • Made in Spain.«Aquí hay científicos que son líderes mundiales y que trabajan en desentrañar los mecanismos moleculares de envejecimiento celular. Carlos López-Otín, Manuel Serrano y yo publicamos un estudio en 2013 en la prestigiosa revista Cell», explica Blasco. En el mismo aseguraban que al combatir el envejecimiento se lucha contra el cáncer y otras enfermedades. «Mi equipo consiguió prolongar la vida de los ratones en un 40% gracias a la enzima de la telomerasa que recibió el premio Nobel de Medicina», añade.

04. ¿Pocas nueces?

Al final todo se reduce a la receta de la abuela. ¿Cuáles son las mejores estrategias para prevenir el envejecimiento y mitigar las arrugas, el sobrepeso y las enfermedades? «No existen los milagros, solo podemos hacer lo que nos aconsejaron nuestras madres: no fumar, no engordar, hacer deporte, comer de todo», responde De Grey.

  • Palabra de experto. Cinthya Kenyon comprobó que el azúcar acortaba la vida de sus gusanos. El régimen de la estadounidense se basa desde entonces en alimentos con un índice glucémico bajo, como las manzanas, la avena o las lentejas. «Envejecemos y enfermamos a distintas velocidades debido a la genética y al estilo de vida. Cuanto más dañemos las células, más rápido quemaremos el tiempo de vida saludable», afirma Blasco. Y añade: «Los países más longevos son los nórdicos. También son los que tienen mayor índice de envejecimiento activo sin enfermedades».
  • ¿Cuánto queda? «En los últimos 10 o 15 años se han publicado trabajos muy serios que demuestran la importancia del proceso de envejecimiento en la enfermedad. Pero los avances científicos van 10 o 20 años por delante de los beneficios que puedan aportar a la sociedad», nos recuerda Blasco.

En busca del santo grial


Vacunas. Para eliminar tumores ya se emplean virus como el adenovirus (causante de resfriados) y la vaccinia (de la viruela) que penetran en las unidades cancerígenas.

Telómeros. «Rejuvenecer los telómeros de los ratones alarga su longevidad en un 40%; en humanos equivaldría a vivir hasta los 115 o 120 años», dice Blasco, del CNIO.

ADN. «Los mayores logros se han obtenido modificando los genes, pero aún no hay fármacos capaces de alterar todas esas rutas moleculares. Llegarán», predice la experta.

Medicación. Existen fármacos como la rapamicina y otros en desarrollo como la metformina (para la diabetes) que podrían retrasar el envejecimiento celular diez años.

Cuidar el reloj. «Los fallos moleculares, celulares y fisiológicos que llegan con la edad podrían deberse al mal funcionamiento de un reloj central que los sincroniza», afirma Yun.


Millón. El objetivo de la empresa Human Longevity es generar un banco de un millón de secuencias del genoma humano en 2020. Esta información ayudará a otras compañías a desarrollar medicina antiedad.


Fármacos. Se ha demostrado la eficacia de 20 medicamentos a la hora de alargar la esperanza de vida de los ratones, según The Guardian. Los estudios se centran ahora en comprobar los beneficios en humanos.

How to Make the Most of Longer Lives

How to Make the Most of Longer Lives

The first person to live to 150 is alive today.

For many months I drove home past a financial-services billboard advertising this dramatic claim, followed by the punch line: “Let’s get ready for a longer retirement.”

The focus of that message, of course, is money—the size of our nest eggs. But the words highlight a far bigger challenge. In the early decades of the 21st century, we are pushing, rapidly, to extend our lives. But we’re paying scant attention to how we should make the most of that additional time.

Where are the innovations designed to make these bonus decades actually worth living? Aside from the mind-boggling prospect of saving for 50- or 75-year retirements, how do we make these new chapters both fulfilling for individuals and sustainable for society?

Life extension without social innovation is a recipe for dystopian disaster—what one critic characterizes as “the coming death shortage,” invoking images not only of endless (and unaffordable) retirements but of a society loaded down by a population explosion of the idle old.

As thousands of baby boomers each day surge into their 60s and 70s, it’s time to focus on enriching lives, not just lengthening them; on providing purpose and productivity, not just perpetuity.

We need to marshal imagination and ingenuity to devise new strategies for enhancing the whole range of experiences in later life, including education, faith, housing, work, finance and community.



Here are six ideas to launch us on that path.

Come up with a new name for this new chapter of life.

Naming a phase of life—giving it a coherent identity—does more than most people realize to make life, and society, work better. It creates a framework for constructing the pathways, products and policies required to make the most of this period. And so it should be with the new chapter taking shape between, roughly, ages 55 and 75.

Consider: One hundred years ago, we worried about a profusion of young people who were neither children nor adults. In 1904, G. Stanley Hall, the great American psychologist, helped put “adolescence” on the map with his seminal book of that name. Here, then, was a framework around which educators, legislators and entrepreneurs could begin developing new arrangements to make the most of that period.

Today, of course, we take “adolescence” for granted. But the invention of that stage of life acted as a stimulus for, among other breakthroughs, making high-school education widespread and expanding child-labor laws. (Although it did take several decades after Hall’s treatise for the “teenage” label to become ubiquitous.)

Let’s realize the same benefits for the new phase taking shape after midlife, starting with the nomenclature. What should we call this emerging period between our middle years and old age? Observers have suggested the “third chapter,” “adulthood II,” even “middlescence.” (Interestingly, G. Stanley Hall was among the first to suggest a new stage between our middle years and old age, describing it, poetically, as an Indian summer.)

Make the transition as easy as possible.

Remember the old rites of passage—the retirement party, the gold watch, the RV trip? As we create a new life chapter beyond midlife, we need to afford people the time and space to move to what’s next.


It’s common for young people to have four years of college to navigate the developmental passage from youth to adulthood, and now increasingly we are throwing in gap years before or after. But what about their parents? They’ve been laboring long hours and juggling the responsibilities of family, and are now heading into a stage of life that doesn’t have a name, much less a clear road map. There should be a gap year—or at least a few bridge months—for grown-ups to take a breather and figure out their next steps.

More individuals at this juncture seem to agree. Research from RAND Corp. reveals that a significant segment of the population is already retiring for a year or two, with every intention of returning to work following that respite. In other words, they are using the rubric of retirement to grant themselves a much-needed sabbatical—to take some time to rest up before readying for what comes next.

Still, theirs remains essentially a do-it-yourself process. It’s time to help make this post-midlife passage more efficient and suited to preparing individuals emotionally and spiritually for what lies ahead.

Some promising approaches are starting to emerge. Last fall, Rabbi Laura Geller of Los Angeles brought together a group of area congregations to think about what these new rites of passage might look like in the context of Judaism—observing that her religion’s life markers derive largely from biblical times, when lives were far shorter than today.

One answer: a kind of bar mitzvah for those moving into a new identity beyond midlife but far from the end of life, aimed at helping individuals reset their priorities and develop the right frame of mind for navigating their next phase, with particular focus on questions of leaving a legacy and how they might engage in “tikkun olam,” healing the world.


Another faith-infused effort is the Halftime Institute, which blends precepts of Christian faith with ideas from management gurus like Peter Drucker and Jim Collins, to help individuals navigate the passage “from success to significance.” Among other things, the Halftime Institute’s programs help members find their calling through developing “a personal plan for spiritual growth, a life mission statement and a clear action plan.”

Such rites and routes also have a place in our secular lives. I’ll soon be returning for my 35th college reunion, like so many other boomers who were part of the dramatic expansion of higher education in the 1960s and 1970s. Reunions are a tailor-made opportunity to help individuals graduate into the second half of adulthood, using to full advantage their return to a setting associated with new beginnings, a sense of possibility and community.

Already a number of higher-education institutions are offering reunion workshops on the subject of “what’s next.” Others have gone further. Northwestern University conducted a two-part webinar for alumni helping them consider and prepare for second acts aimed at improving prospects for future generations, featuring the accounts of classmates who had navigated that journey.

Design schools for the second half of life.

Nearly 50 years ago, we pioneered lifelong learning for seniors—a notable advance, but let’s face it: All too often these programs are great for mental stimulation but ill-suited to launching individuals into new life chapters. Catching up on the Renaissance masters or mapping your family’s genealogy can take you only so far.

What we need now is school designed for the second half of life, helping people retool to continue to earn an income, maintain a sense of engagement, and adapt to fresh challenges by teaching them new skills and helping them plan their encore careers.

In recent years, two elite universities—Harvard and Stanford—have broken important new ground, introducing yearlong programs to fill these needs. Both involve reflection, learning, interaction with colleagues, and the chance to explore options for a next act of purpose and productivity. Both offer an opportunity to customize an interdisciplinary course of study with an eye to helping students launch second acts as social entrepreneurs or move into new organizational roles drawing on past experience in creative ways.

But this is only a beginning, albeit a promising one.

What’s warranted now is a far more broad-based effort. We need a system of easily accessible and affordable opportunities for all those interested in working beyond traditional retirement age, one that includes more community-college and continuing-education options, and that builds on existing trends in education innovation, including online courses and the competency-based movement to provide credit for experience and learning acquired outside the classroom.

There’s some movement to make that happen: In March, two dozen leaders from across higher education came together at New York University to discuss democratizing and expanding their offerings for individuals moving beyond midlife. If they succeed, these trailblazers might not only further the reinvention of school for the second half of life but rewrite the educational script entirely.

After all, why is it that we load up all our higher education and higher-education spending in life’s first two dozen years, when individuals have so many decades stretching out in front of them? It’s hard to know at 20 what we’ll want or need to know at 50 or 60. That’s why we should develop an approach to learning that allows for multiple opportunities to renew and retrain across the extended life course of the 21st century.

Figure out how to finance the bonus years.

Along with fashioning new kinds of education and career pathways, we should help ensure that Americans are able to pay for them—and for all those years being added to the lifespan.

Financial-services companies could provide a great service through creating and marketing what might be called individual purpose accounts, or IPAs—a kind of 529 savings plan for grown-ups. Such plans could help subsidize the new pathways to un-retirement, funding further education and other learning opportunities. They might also complement individual retirement accounts and related savings vehicles for retirement itself.

Another potentially far-reaching idea: Allow people 50 and older to take a single early year of Social Security to retool for their next career, whether by going back to school or doing an internship, in exchange for working an actuarially adjusted period later before receiving full benefits.

Doing so promises a win-win: helping individuals bolster their finances through working longer, while also enabling society to realize the talent windfall present in the older population, especially in high-growth fields like health care. Some people will earn a robust living, while others will use their new skills in part-time or flexible jobs that fill a financial gap and allow them to delay dipping into retirement funds.

Help the generations come together.

For half a century, we’ve done much to keep young and old apart, especially in the realm of housing. Yet age-segregated housing for retirees runs against the grain of everything we know about healthy development in the post-midlife period, a time when connections with younger generations are linked to higher rates of happiness for older people. What we need instead: housing strategies that help to forge and solidify bonds among the generations.

One compelling example is Bridge Meadows. This housing development in Portland, Ore., brings together families raising foster children with older people of modest means, who receive reduced rents in return for volunteer work with the adoptive families living in the community: everything from baby sitting and playing catch with children to working on arts-and-crafts projects and making meals. It’s an arrangement that makes both economic and common sense, filling the fundamental human need for community and connection.

I’d like to see more housing development animated by that same compelling vision—especially as more families show an interest in moving in together, sometimes with three or four generations residing under the same roof. (A 2011 study by the nonprofit Generations United found that approximately one in six Americans resides in a multigenerational household, a 10% jump since the start of the recession.) We now likewise have an expanding cohort of individuals without children or grandchildren of their own, along with millions who don’t live anywhere near their younger relatives. These individuals might well be drawn to, and benefit from, such intergenerational settings.

While we’re at it, we should create a Legacy Corps: one that recruits millions of older people to be extra “grandparents” for young people in early-learning programs and mentors for children growing up facing tough odds. In essence, it could be a new kind of Peace Corps for the generation that the Peace Corps was designed for in the first place. There’s a healthy dose of self-interest in such an enterprise for the boomers, who will be dependent on these young people as they move into their elderly years.

Get creative people thinking about how to improve our extra years.

Innovations such as those I’ve just described have drawn little attention from investors to date. As a result, most remain small in scale, if not solely in the realm of ideas.

Of 35 grants made by the federal government’s Social Innovation Fund since 2010, only one has directly targeted aging. Philanthropy isn’t doing any better. According to data from the Foundation Center, less than 2% of foundation money—often a powerful lever for social innovation—goes into aging.

But there are promising signs in the U.K., where a new £50 million ($78 million) investment from that country’s Big Lottery Fund is being used to improve the quality of life for older adults, including plans to support innovative initiatives in work, health and community engagement. We would be smart to develop our own version.

Prizes are another great option for attracting talent to tackle the issues surrounding second acts. A $1 million Palo Alto Longevity Prize, with a who’s who of Silicon Valley backing it, has been offered for the next big breakthrough in extending life. Why not use similar vehicles to achieve the same result in social innovation aimed at enriching the later years?

The X Prize, for instance, is aimed at big innovations that benefit mankind. I’d like to see a prize for the innovation that does the most to increase the productivity and contribution of older people to society—especially since the founder of the X Prize Foundation, Peter Diamandis, is co-founder of the Human Longevity Inc. startup (along with genome pioneer J. Craig Venter), aimed at “extending the healthy human lifespan.”


Does this agenda sound daunting? Here’s reassuring news. We’ve seen this challenge before—and met it.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy took office eight days after the first White House Conference on Aging. Two years later, President Kennedy gave his most important speech on aging, declaring that America was on the brink of a longevity revolution, filled with promise but marked by a gap: We had added “years to life,” he pronounced; now it was time to add “life to those years.”

In impressively short order, we closed that era’s gap, through first conceiving the idea of leisure-focused “golden years,” then proceeding to make this marketing slogan a cornerstone of the American dream. In a remarkable period of social invention, we fashioned senior centers and retirement communities, Elderhostel (now Road Scholar) and Institutes for Learning in Retirement, Medicare and the Older Americans Act. We not only enriched those later years, but set in motion the conditions that contributed to longer, healthier, more active lives.

Now, as we prepare for the sixth White House Conference on Aging, taking place next month, and as the years added to life continue to trend upward, let’s rise to the occasion again, realizing the true promise of longevity for individuals and for nations.

And let’s do it in time for the onrushing wave of baby boomers—but, most of all, for those young people projected to live even longer. I hope that when they sail by the virtual billboards of tomorrow, propelled by their self-driving cars, they will be greeted not by scary longevity scenarios but by an inviting vision of their own later years.

Mr. Freedman is the founder and chief executive officer of, a nonprofit organization working to promote encore careers, and author, most recently, of “The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife.” He can be reached at

The Search for Immortality

The Search for Immortality


Deploying their immense wealth, business and tech impresarios are investing

in their next disruption: ending death.


Thank you for calling the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. This call may be recorded. If you are reporting the death or the near death of an Alcor member, please press two now.

Anti-aging research is the next big thing in healthcare. Companies such as Calico and Human Longevity, both based in California, are pioneering genetic and pharmacological techniques to reduce the ravages of time on the human body. At the fringes of science, Alcor, an Arizona-based nonprofit, vitrifies dead people in hopes of reviving them at a later date, while Russian internet mogul Dmitry Itskov seeks to create cybernetic bodies to host human consciousness.

Aging “is one of the great mysteries of biology,” says Dr. Thomas Rando, director of the Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Stanford University. “If we begin to understand what the process of decline associated with aging is, and if we can slow that by targeting those mechanisms, then potentially one could alter its course.”

The idea that death can be forestalled by a magical substance, usually the mystical waters of the Fountain of Youth, dates back at least to the Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century BC. The “elixir of life” also appears in ancient Chinese and Indian legends and in alchemical texts from medieval Europe. The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León was thought to have quested throughout the New World in the 16th century in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth.

As living standards improved in the 20th century, the quest for eternal life was subsumed into modern medicine’s fight against infectious disease. The average American’s life expectancy rose from 70 in 1960 to almost 79 in 2012, according to the World Bank. Yet little attention was paid to extending good health into old age. Rather than dying at 70, people now live to be far older, but often with a lesser quality of life.

Serious anti-aging research only started about a decade ago. “Improving health is the goal, and longevity might be the consequence of the improvement,” says Dr. Joon Yun, president of hedge fund Palo Alto Investors and sponsor of the Palo Alto Longevity Prize, which funds anti-aging research.

At the time, scientists interested in treating or preventing the impairments of aging were often seen as either out of touch or just plain kooky. “I remember talking to some people from [the healthcare company] Roche about 15 years ago about this notion of drugs that might target the aging process,” Rando says. “They thought that was ridiculous.”

Two trends have since proved to be the foundation for longevity research: new discoveries in genomics and the ability to share information over the internet. But for the most part, longevity research has not been funded by conventional research institutes or biotech companies—as great as the payoff could be, there’s little to no short-term return. Instead, some of the world’s wealthiest and most visible entrepreneurs have taken up the challenge. Some have a background in medicine, but most of these investors come from the worlds of technology and engineering. That makes more than just financial sense. “It’s clear now that biology is an engineering project, whereas before that wasn’t so obvious,” says Sonia Arrison, author of 100 Plus, a book about the effects of superannuation.

The prospects are encouraging: Participants in longevity research say they expect rapid gains in a matter of years and decades. It’s not unreasonable to think that today’s children could regularly crack 100 or even 120.

“It’s the holy grail of healthcare, extending a human lifespan,” says Dr. Peter Diamandis, cofounder of Human Longevity and CEO of the XPrize Foundation, which awards financial gifts for scientific and technological advancements. Yet there’s a downside to the prospect of extreme longevity: If people don’t maintain good health into their senescence, longevity could place enormous strain on economies and societies.

And, of course, philosophical questions abound. What do highly successful people like Sergey Brin, Larry Ellison or Peter Thiel—or anyone else for that matter—gain by living a few years more? How will added longevity change age-old notions of the phases of life? Will longevity become, even more than it already is, a gift largely conferred on the wealthy?

The research will not pause to answer these questions. Here are six successful entrepreneurs who have turned their energy—and their wealth—to the project of longer life.

grow_immortality_yunDR. JOON YUN

Managing partner and president,
Palo Alto Investors Sponsor, Palo Alto Longevity Prize

“Nature endowed the greatest healthcare system in the world: It’s called our bodies,” Yun says, explaining why he endowed the $1 million Palo Alto Longevity Prize. “Our body is an incredible system that is able to self-heal.” Yet beginning in middle age, “it is more vulnerable to the slings and arrows of life.”

Yun, 47, graduated from Harvard with a degree in evolutionary biology before getting his MD at Duke and joining Stanford’s clinical faculty. He signed on with Palo Alto Investors, a $1 billion healthcare investment fund, in 1998. His goal? To extend what he calls “healthspan”—our healthy years before we begin to decline—into middle and old age; if longer life is a consequence, so much the better.

Under the current healthcare regime, Yun says, “we have been helping people live longer and stronger lives, but the trajectory is unsustainable. This idea of helping people live longer without solving the underlying cause of aging lends itself to exponential increases in healthcare spending.

“This is an area of relative market dysfunction,” he adds. Biotech companies and healthcare providers are incentivized to treat diseases, not prevent them. Compounding the problem, increased healthspan is hard to measure; it requires long time spans, discouraging companies with short-term goals from pursuing it.

Yun created the Longevity Prize to incentivize research in two areas: restoration of the body’s ability to repair and maintain itself, and extending the lifespan of a mammal by 50 percent. Preventing people from getting sick as they age, Yun says, is about “getting a lot more healthcare value for a lot less money.”

grow_immortality_itskovDMITRY ITSKOV

Founder, New Media Stars, 2045 Initiative

Itskov’s Facebook page displays a piece of promotional art from James Cameron’s 2009 movie, Avatar, with Itskov’s face pasted over it. The movie was about futuristic soldiers who transfer their minds to artificial bodies. Itskov, who launched Russian internet company New Media Stars in 1999, must have really liked Avatar, because in 2011 he founded the 2045 Initiative, a foundation that aims to transfer human consciousness into cybernetic bodies.

Itskov, 34, has plotted the evolution of humanity from carbon-based life form to liberated machine sentience. By 2020, according to his website, he foresees the “widespread use of affordable android ‘avatars’ controlled by a ‘brain-computer’ interface.” By 2025, an “autonomous life-support system for the human brain linked to a robot ‘avatar’ will save people whose body is completely worn out.” By 2045, “substance-independent minds will receive new bodies with capacities far exceeding those of ordinary humans.”

To get there, Itskov is investing in startups creating avatar technology, while the 2045 Initiative is designed to coordinate and support scientific advancement in the field.

grow_immortality_brinSERGEY BRIN

Cofounder, Google backer, Calico

On January 14, 2013, Brin posted on his Google+ page a photo of jellyfish suspended in the limpid water of a lake in Palau; because some jellyfish do not appear to die, they have become a focus of aging research. “No place in the world has made me consider my place in the universe like Jellyfish Lake,” Brin wrote. “Millions of creatures all drifting seemingly aimlessly, searching for light, for the energy to spawn so generations of their offspring may do the same years later. I take a small breath, sink toward the bottom, watching them in wonder and think, are we really so different?

This kind of thinking led Brin and Larry Page, his Google cofounder, to launch Calico in 2013 with money from the company’s venture capital arm, Google Ventures. (Brin is said to be considerably more involved. One possible reason why: Brin, 41, has a genetic mutation, LRRK2, which is thought to substantially increase the probability of developing Parkinson’s disease.) Calico’s stated goal is “to harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan.” The company announced a $1.5 billion coinvestment with pharmaceutical company AbbVie in September 2014 to construct an R&D lab “focused on aging and age-related diseases, including neurodegeneration and cancer.”

Calico’s approach is twofold. In the short term, the company is developing drugs to treat age-related diseases; in the long run, Calico hopes to gain a larger, more holistic understanding of why humans age and to fight aging using pharmacology.

Calico is in a “unique situation in being able to invest in basic aging research without having to turn a profit for a long time,” Stanford’s Rando says. “So there’s the potential there to do something really big.”



Executive chairman and CTO, Oracle
Founder, Ellison medical Foundation

Ellison, one of the most intriguing figures in Silicon Valley, gave more than $350 million for anti-aging research from 1997 to 2015, making him by far one of the largest sponsors of the field. With no tangible results in sight, he stopped making new grants in 2013, and has never publicly explained why. The foundation, however, still operates.

When Ellison, now 70, established the foundation, “there wasn’t enough traction to allow any success in the field,” says Dr. Kevin Lee, executive director of the Ellison Medical Foundation. The research grants provided by the foundation subsequently “defined this as a problem that wasn’t being addressed.” Ellison’s support, Lee says, helped move anti-aging research from the scientific fringe to the mainstream. “The foundation’s timing was perfect in providing the seeding for this field to develop.”

grow_immortality_kurzweilRAY KURZWEIL

Director of engineering, Google cofounder, Singularity University

Kurzweil is the eccentric uncle of Silicon Valley. He invented the CCD flatbed scanner and a machine that reads text to the blind. The recipient of 20 honorary doctorates, he cofounded Singularity University in Silicon Valley in 2007. Its mission: to become the epicenter of theorizing about the “singularity,” the moment when artificial intelligence will surpass human minds, allegedly leading to a tech utopia. Kurzweil believes that anti-aging research, nutrition and nanotechnology, among other things, will “enable humans to live indefinitely,” according to a note he wrote for the Methuselah Foundation website.

A major donor to the research-oriented Methuselah Foundation, Kurzweil, 67, is also a member of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a nonprofit that cryonically preserves people when they die in the hope of one day bringing them back to life.

“What’s the harm in rationalizing death?” Kurzweil wrote in 2004. “The harm is that in rationalizing something that is tragic, we fail to take the urgent action needed to avoid the tragedy.” As human lifespans grow, Kurzweil adds, “we are also going to merge with our technology and expand our cognitive and emotional capabilities, as well as the depth and richness of our intellectual, relational, artistic, sexual and emotional experiences many-fold.”

grow_immortality_thielPETER THIEL

Cofounder, PayPal, Palantir Technologies
Backer, SENS Research Foundation, the Methuselah Foundation

There are three approaches to death, Thiel recently told the Guardian: “You can accept it, you can deny it or you can fight it. I think our society is dominated by people who are into denial or acceptance, and I prefer to fight it.”

Thiel, 47, has said that he plans to live to be 120. He runs, takes human growth hormone, adheres to a Paleo diet and eschews sugar. He has also donated at least $6 million to the SENS Research Foundation and the Methuselah Foundation, both longevity-research projects started by a Cambridge-educated biologist named Aubrey de Grey.

“There’s 100,000 people or more dying every single day of aging or age-related causes,” de Grey says. “Mostly dying after a long period of decline and dependence and disease and general misery. So, you know, every single day that I bring the defeat of aging forward—which I probably do about once a month—I’m saving 100,000 lives. That’s pretty motivating.”

Thiel said in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session last year that he prefers to invest in medical and research ventures when they resemble “software companies—a group of really committed founders with a clear vision of what they’re trying to do.”

“The key thing about Peter Thiel is he has a high threshold of reputation tolerance,” the Methuselah Foundation’s CEO, David Gobel, says. “There is a very large number of millionaires and billionaires who are legitimately terrified of being pilloried and burned at the stake in the media, because it’s happened to them and it has consequences… I think he’s made a rational calculation that his reputation is not worth as much as the potential.”


Some longevity organizations focus on bringing people back to life, others on keeping you from dying in the first place.


A collaboration between cofounders Dr. Peter Diamandis, Dr. Robert Hariri and pioneering geneticist Dr. Craig Venter (see Q&A with Craig Venter), HLI may be the only serious competitor to Google Ventures’ Calico. The company focuses on extending life through genomics and stem cell therapies, and specifically targets cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

HLI is “building the largest genome-sequencing facility on the planet,” Diamandis says. It will also compile microbiome, MRI and metabolism data. “It’s just a massive amount of data that would have been impossible to manipulate, fathom or mine even just five years ago,” Diamandis adds. “We’re targeting millions of data sets from millions of individuals from around the world, from across ages, from across disease groups and mining that to extract knowledge and information.”

In January, the company announced a gene-sequencing agreement with biotech giant Genentech, which hopes to use Human Longevity’s findings to speed the discovery of new drugs.


Alcor vitrifies people after they die in the hopes of bringing them back to life in the future. Members’ bodies are infused with a “cryoprotective solution, a kind of medical antifreeze” after they die, Alcor CEO Max More says, before being cooled and stored in liquid nitrogen.

The cost? At least $200,000 for the entire body or $80,000 for just the brain, and it can be paid using life insurance benefits. According to More, many wealthy members set up a trust so they have a nest egg if and when they wake up.

Live for ever: Scientists say they’ll soon extend life ‘well beyond 120’


Live for ever: Scientists say they’ll soon extend life ‘well beyond 120’
Ernestine Shepherd

In Palo Alto in the heart of Silicon Valley, hedge fund manager Joon Yun is doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation. According to US social security data, he says, the probability of a 25-year-old dying before their 26th birthday is 0.1%. If we could keep that risk constant throughout life instead of it rising due to age-related disease, the average person would – statistically speaking – live 1,000 years. Yun finds the prospect tantalising and even believable. Late last year he launched a $1m prize challenging scientists to “hack the code of life” and push human lifespan past its apparent maximum of about 120 years (the longest known/confirmed lifespan was 122 years).

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After the last death: Doctors, academics debate the possibility, value of a 150-year lifespan


After the last death: Doctors, academics debate the possibility, value of a 150-year lifespan

40155_mainDr. Joon Yun, benefactor of the $1 million Palo Alto Longevity Prize and President of Palo Alto Investors, LLC. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Halloween was approaching and Dr. Joon Yun was explaining why he wanted someone to hack our bodies.

“Every day 150,000 people die worldwide and the majority of them (are) due to age-related illness,” Yun, 46, said while seated in the board room of Palo Alto Investors LLC, an investment management company of which he is president. “We’ve got the technology to hack the aging code and end aging. Question is not ‘if’ but ‘when’ we want it to happen.”

Yun, a bespectacled physician turned investor, is the benefactor of The Palo Alto Longevity Prize, a $1 million science competition aiming to end aging by restoring the body’s homeostatic capacity and promoting the extension of a sustained and healthy lifespan.

The Prize is the latest in a spate of anti-aging efforts being mounted throughout the Bay Area. Google’s Calico Project has gained the most attention because of the corporate brand and the impenetrable secrecy surrounding it. The Buck Institute in Marin County was featured in The Atlantic’s October cover story “What Happens When We All Live to 100?”

The same issue featured an essay by Ezekiel Emanuel, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” Emanuel dismisses efforts to extend healthy longevity and equates age with decrepitude, an attitude that longevity experts including Yun consider laughably outdated.

“I’ve gotten so many emails from people linking to the story,” Yun groaned. “Somebody should start a new magazine called The Pacific. The Atlantic is an old way to think of things. Look west; look to the future.”

Six teams of scientists and medical researchers from around the country are competing for the Longevity Prize’s two $500,000 awards, the Homeostatic Capacity Prize and the Longevity Demonstration Prize. The former will go to the first team to demonstrate that it can restore homeostatic capacity of an aging mammal to that of a young adult. The latter will go to the first team that can extend the lifespan of its mammal by 50 percent of acceptable published norms using an approach that restores homeostatic capacity.

Homeostatic capacity refers to the ability of one’s physiology to self-correct and stabilize in response to stressors. Young people typically have a strong homeostatic capacity; it’s what allows their bodies to heal from injuries and recover quickly from illnesses.

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Miljonjakten som ska stoppa åldrandet


Miljonjakten som ska stoppa åldrandet

En miljon dollar för att knäcka åldrandet. Det – och förhoppningsvis ett längre liv – är vad som står på spel när forskarlag världen över tävlar om Palo Alto Longevity Prize. SvD träffade människorna som söker efter ungdomens källa.


Joon Yun, ordförande för Palo Alto investors. 


För Jin Hyung Lee och hennes team är tävlingen framförallt en chans att testa hypoteser och utbyta kunskap med forskare från andra expertområden. Här i hennes labb vid Stanford university i Kalifornien. FOTO: PAUL SAKUMA

Doktor Joon Yuns svärfar blev bara 68 år gammal. Det var ett av skälen till att den före detta Standfordläkaren, nu investerare, bestämde sig för att ta upp kampen mot döden. I början var han skeptisk till att det kunde göras, men efter att ha pratat med vänner och experter började han bli alltmer övertygad om att åldrandet faktiskt kan stoppas.

– Det är inte så långt bort som folk tror. Vad folk vet om dagens forskning är bara toppen på isberget, säger Yun, vars pappa arbetat med hälsofrågor vid Världsbanken.


“Vem vill inte leva längre?”

Jin Hyung Lee

Vi befinner oss på Palo Alto Investors kontor, söder om San Francisco. Ordförande Joon Yun konstaterar att hälsovården är fantastisk, men att den har två allvarliga problem; genom att bota symptom av åldrande, men inte åldrandet i sig, bildas en ond spiral – med en åldrande befolkning som behöver alltmer sjukvård ju äldre den blir. Det andra fatala felet är att alla till slut åldras och dör.

– Vad skulle hända om vi i stället återställde kroppen till var den en gång var i ungdomen?

Idén om ett pris för att motivera forskare att ”hacka åldrandets kod och bota åldrande” kom från familjens Yuns barnflicka, en bekant till Googles styrelseordförande Eric Schmidt. I september presenterades Palo Alto Longevity Prize. Tävlingen består av två deltävlingar med en halv miljon dollar i prispotten vardera. I den ena – med deadline juni 2016 – gäller det att återskapa en ungdomlig rytm hos ett åldrande däggdjurshjärta. Det andra går ut på att med bibehållen biologiskt jämvikt (homeostas) förlänga livslängden hos ett däggdjur med 50 procent före september 2018.

Hittills har ett tiotal forskarlag anmält sig. Först att anta utmaningen var ett team från Stanford, lett av forskaren Jin Hyung Lee. Grupperna arbetar med olika tekniker som stamceller, gener, hormoner och elektriska impulser. Lees labb forskar på nervbanor i hjärnan och hur de kontrollerar olika system i kroppen.

– Vi hade egentligen inte funderat på kopplingarna till livslängd, men kände att vi hade verktygen och att vi kanske skulle kunna bidra, säger hon.

Den största utmaningen är att bedriva forskningen utan bidrag, vid sidan av det vanliga arbetet.

– Främst gör vi det här för att vi är intresserade av ämnet. Vem vill inte leva längre?

Gerontologen Aubrey de Grey har skrivit boken ”Ending Aging” och är en av priskommitténs rådgivare. Positivt med priset menar han är att det syftar till att reversera åldrande, snarare än bara bromsa det.

”Alldeles för lite forskning görs på föryngring, så det här kommer göra väldigt stor skillnad”, skriver han i ett mejl till SvD.

Aubrey de Grey hör till dem som tror att det är möjligt för människor att leva i tusen år eller mer. För honom och andra är det inte en fråga om ”om”, utan ”när” vår livslängd kommer öka dramatiskt.

– Människor kommer aldrig bli odödliga. Däremot är det sannolikt att vi kommer leva mycket, mycket längre och friskare liv i framtiden, säger ytterligare en av rådgivarna, Sonia Arrison.

Hon är författare till boken ”100+”, om vilka effekter en ökad mänsklig livslängd skulle få. Oavsett problemen som kan uppstå (befolkningsökning som ett givet exempel) anser hon att fördelarna överväger – ”om det står mellan döden eller några problem på vägen tar jag hellre problemen.”

Enligt Arrison befinner vi oss vid en väldigt speciell tidpunkt i historien. För första gången har vi verktygen att reparera oss själva, nu måste vi bara lära oss att använda dem.

– Folk inser inte att det är en revolution på gång och att det kan gå snabbare om alla ligger på. Jag är inte orolig över att tekniken inte kommer finnas tillgänglig för mina barn, men jag skulle gärna vilja finnas kvar för att umgås med dem.

Även om priset siktar högt är Yun medveten om att han kanske kommer att behöva skriva fler checkar för att nå sitt mål. Matematikern och ekonomen Eric Weinstein, vd för Facebook-miljardären Peter Theils investmentbolag Thiel Capital, var en av talarna när priset presenterades. Han hoppas att tävlingen inte minst kan bli ett viktigt steg på vägen.

– Kanske kan den första omgången ge oss en tydligare bild av hur vår motståndare ser ut.

Dr Yun nickar instämmande. Chanserna för en ”grand slam” på första försöket är små. Han tror ändå att vi befinner oss vid starten på något stort.

– Kanske kommer framtida generationer se tillbaka på oss som de sista människorna som var fast i en åldrande kropp.