For Immediate Release
July 11, 2006
SENS Withstands Three Challenges – $20k Prize Unclaimed
Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s engineering blueprint for alleviating the debilities caused by aging prevails: “SENS can of course be legitimately doubted, but it cannot now be legitimately derided”
The science magazine Technology Review has released the results of the SENS Challenge, which was established to test the validity of SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), the brainchild of longevity researcher Dr. Aubrey de Grey. SENS lays out a detailed engineering approach to alleviating and eventually reversing the debilitation caused by aging. Following a controversial profile of de Grey published by Technology Review in 2005, Dr. de Grey’s charitable foundation, the Methuselah Foundation, and Technology Review jointly offered $10,000 each to establish the SENS Challenge. This $20,000 purse would be awarded to qualified experts who could demonstrate that SENS was “so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate”.
An eminent panel of judges, comprising Rodney Brooks, PhD, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Anita Goel, MD and PhD, founder and chief executive of Nanobiosym; Vikram Kumar, MD, cofounder and chief executive of Dimagi, and a pathologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston; Nathan Myhrvold, PhD, cofounder and chief executive of Intellectual Ventures, and former chief technologist at Microsoft; and J. Craig Venter, PhD, founder of the Venter Institute and developer of whole-genome shotgun sequencing, which sped up the human genome project, deliberated over the three serious submissions and has now delivered its verdict.
The judges’ unanimous opinion is summed up by Dr. Myhrvold, who observed: “Some scientists react very negatively toward those who seek to claim the mantle of scientific authority for ideas that have not yet been proved. Estep et al. seem to have this philosophy. They raise many reasons to doubt SENS. Their submission does the best job in that regard. But at the same time, they are too quick to engage in name-calling, labeling ideas as ‘pseudo-scientific’ or ‘unscientific’ that they cannot really demonstrate are so. We need to remember that all hypotheses go through a stage where one or a small number of investigators believe something and others raise doubts.”
Robotics pioneer Dr. Brooks stated: “I have no confidence that they (SENS detractors) understand engineering, and some of their criticisms are poor criticisms of a legitimate engineering process.”
Dr. de Grey commented: “The result of the TR SENS Challenge is a decisive rebuke to those gerontologists who have dismissed SENS as ‘unscientific’ and neglected to study it in detail. The Challenge judges forcefully and accurately describe SENS as a radical, necessarily speculative, but legitimate engineering proposal that merits fair consideration. SENS can of course be legitimately doubted, but it cannot now be legitimately derided”.
Technology Review has also announced that it is to make a $10,000 payment to Estep et al. in recognition of what it terms their “careful scholarship.” David Gobel, Co-Founder of the Methuselah Foundation, commented: “While of course Technology Review is at liberty to make whatever ex-gratia payments it likes from its own funds, it is important to make it clear that this consolation prize was awarded outside the framework of the SENS Challenge, and without consulting or notifying the Methuselah Foundation, which contributed half the as yet unclaimed $20,000 SENS Challenge fund. Technology Review’s verdict is in stark contrast to that of the SENS Challenge judges, who noted that Estep et al. were ‘too quick to engage in name-calling’ and that ‘it would be overstating the case to assert that Estep et al. have proved their point.’”
SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) is a detailed plan for alleviating the debilitation caused by human aging. SENS is an engineering project, reflecting the fact that aging is a medical condition and that medicine is an engineering discipline. Aging is a set of progressive changes in body composition, at the molecular and cellular level, which are side-effects of essential metabolic processes; each of these changes has the potential to be mitigated and eventually reversed. Further details of SENS can be found at: www.sens.org
About the Methuselah Foundation
The Methuselah Foundation is a non-profit 501c(3) organization dedicated to raising the awareness of the potential for near-term science-based aging interventions using modern technologies. Its primary activity is the Methuselah Mouse Prize, which is being offered to the scientific research teams that significantly extend the lifespan of middle-aged laboratory mice. Further details of the Methuselah Foundation can be found at: www.mprize.org
About Technology Review
Technology Review, the oldest technology magazine in the world (est. 1899), is owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. TR’s February 2005 profile of Dr. de Grey can be found at:
Full details of the SENS Challenge can be found at: www.technologyreview.com/sens/index.aspx