A Year-End Message From the Methuselah Foundation

2006 has been a terrific year for the Methuselah Foundation, so we — Aubrey de Grey and Dave Gobel, the MF’s founders and respectively its chairman and CEO — decided to write an end-of-year message to all our many supporters, to let you know all the great things that have happened in 2006 and how bright things are looking for 2007.

The most significant development in the MF’s activities during 2006 is that we are now a fully-fledged grant-making body. Until a year ago, we were focused predominantly on just one of our two strategies for promoting life-extension research, namely the Mprize, which had grown by the end of 2005 to well over $1m in cash and about $2m in pledges. But this year we have begun to place equal emphasis on the other arm of our operations, the direct funding of specific research projects. This was initiated with the help of a handful of generous five-digit donations, and was cemented in September with Peter Thiel’s donation of $500,000 over the next three years. As Aubrey wrote recently, the Thiel donation comprises not only this unconditional money but also a challenge pledge of a further $3m over the coming three years, which we’ll receive in full if we can raise $6m for SENS research from other sources. Incidentally, in response to Aubrey’s letter we’ve received a splendid donation of $50,000 from the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, which has been supporting aging research for over 40 years; we’ve also received many other smaller donations, including from the world-famous futurist Ray Kurzweil. If you’re thinking of donating, and the 50% “Thiel supplement” attracts you as it did these people, there are still a few days left to beat the 2006 tax deadline!

There have also been several important events this year that should be instrumental in making 2007 an even more successful year than 2006. 2006 began in style, with Aubrey appearing in an extremely positive portrayal of SENS on the prime-time current affairs show “60 Minutes”; together with numerous other media appearances across the globe, this was a major step in raising awareness that serious treatment of aging is being worked on by serious and credentialed scientists. Even the normally cautious magazine The Economist mentioned the MF in positive terms recently. Aubrey is likely to have several high-profile media appearances during 2007, for some of which filming took place during 2006.

The overall credibility of SENS is of course central to our effort to attract major funding into the MF to fund SENS research. We received a huge boost in this regard during the summer, when three attempts by biologists to argue that SENS is fantasy were unceremoniously thrown out by a panel of experts. This process, which was called “the SENS Challenge”, was organised by MIT Technology Review, the magazine that had been highly dismissive of SENS in early 2005. We are grateful to Jason Pontin, TR’s editor, for showing the journalistic integrity and tenacity required to overcome SENS’s mainstream critics’ attempts to suppress SENS by ridiculing it rather than critiquing it. Only time will tell whether SENS will indeed defeat aging; but the idea that it is too ambitious even to attempt has been incontrovertibly rejected. See the TR piece describing the result if you don’t know the full story.

A major effort of the MF during 2006 will become public only in the fall: a popular science book describing SENS in depth for a general audience. It will be published by St. Martin’s Press, a major New York publishing house. The text was written partly by Aubrey but mostly by his full-time research assistant, Michael Rae.

The book will be launched contemporaneously with the next Cambridge SENS conference, which will take place on September 6-10. We’ll be opening the conference website for registrations very soon: go to the conference home page for more information. At the previous conference there was a great clamour for more frequent SENS conferences, especially somewhere in North America, so we’re delighted that one of our long-standing and most active volunteers, Kevin Perrott, has managed to put together exactly that in Edmonton on March 30-31 and we encourage you to come along! See the web site of the conference for more details.

From this platform, we are confident that during 2007 the MF will come of age as SENS is increasingly accepted by the mainstream. We will continue to raise money for the Mprize, which recently passed the $4 million mark with mom-of-three Shannon Vyff’s entry into the “300 Club” of long-term committed donors. We’ll continue to expand our SENS research program, with more manpower at our main LysoSENS site (Arizona State University), additional LysoSENS work at Rice University, a probable doubling of effort on the MitoSENS project in Cambridge, and with several other projects lined up to begin as we obtain the needed funds. Our public outreach activities will be much enhanced in 2007, not least by a professional redesign of our websites (mprize.org, methuselahfoundation.org and sens.org). And we will be aiming to allocate substantial resources to building an organisation of the size needed to defeat aging, including hiring a professional fundraiser and making more frequent visits to meet key potential supporters.

Finally, we’d like to say a few words about the sterling achievements of the rest of the MF team this year. Our operation depends totally on the donation not only of funds but of time, and the core volunteers have surpassed themselves this year. Between the Edmonton conference, the LysoSENS and MitoSENS research, to the book, and all manner of other critical roles (many of which, such as the donation software, are successful by NOT being conspicuous), we’re privileged to have a fantastic team. We had our first ever face-to-face project meeting in Boston a couple of months ago and we plan to have such meetings twice yearly from now on, as befits a truly mature global organisation.

We wish you all the best for 2007. We know how much you expect of the MF; we don’t plan to let you down!

Aubrey and Dave

Continued Support From the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research

In response to the recent progress report from Methuselah Foundation chairman Aubrey de Grey, we are pleased to note that the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research has stepped forward in greater support of Foundation-funded SENS research with the offer of an additional $50,000 donation.

Paul F. Glenn, founder of the Glenn Foundation, said, “We have been following the progress of Aubrey de Grey’s ideas with interest, and the Thiel matching pledge allows us to leverage our funds in a highly efficient way.”

You might recall that Paul F. Glenn is the force behind the new aging research institute at Harvard – this is the face of aging research that is not afraid to stand up and talk openly about extending healthy life span by understanding and beating back the mechanisms of degeneration.

The Paul F. Glenn Laboratory is dedicated to understanding the mechanisms of normal aging and the development of interventions to delay its onset and progression, thereby extending the healthy years of human life.

Seeking to accelerate the pace of research into the molecular mechanisms that govern aging, Harvard Medical School and philanthropist Paul F. Glenn, an alumnus of Harvard Law School and founder of the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research have launched the Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Biological Mechanisms of Aging. The new resources will serve as a magnet to attract additional support for the potential creation of a larger Institute for Aging Research at Harvard Medical School.

Great Happenings and the Next Level

From the desk of Methuselah Foundation chairman Aubrey de Grey:

I am writing to you to relate some momentous developments at the Methuselah Foundation. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has generously pledged $3.5 million to our research effort over the next three years. $500,000 of this sum will be immediately put to use with a view to securing near-term validation of the SENS strategy. The remaining $3,000,000 is offered in the form of a matching grant – Mr. Thiel will contribute 50 cents for every $1 that we raise for SENS-related research. (Note that donations to the Mprize do not attract this matching money.)

The Methuselah Foundation is now transitioning from its start-up phase to becoming a fully operational scientific research organization. Researcher John Schloendorn at Arizona State University has just been awarded a scholarship in recognition of his original work under our LysoSENS initiative in identifying bacterial enzymes that are particularly effective in breaking down intracellular debris. At Cambridge University, doctoral student Mark Hamalainen has begun Methuselah Foundation-supported work on mitochondrial DNA. And I have identified several more promising research projects that we can start work on as soon as funding is in place.

Of particular interest to US taxpayers, and with the end of the US tax year approaching, I would like to emphasize the leverage that the Thiel pledge offers. Assuming a 28% tax rate, for every $1,000 that you contribute, with an after tax net cost to you of $720, the Methuselah Foundation will receive more than double that amount – a total of $1,500 including Mr. Thiel’s matching funds. Therefore, I would like to ask you to consider making a contribution to the Methuselah Foundation’s research fund before the end of the year, so that we can maintain our gathering momentum. One of our supporters, Gary Hudson, recently made a $40,000 donation, which will be leveraged in this way. Gary told us, ‘I had been considering making a substantial contribution to the Methuselah Foundation, and Peter Thiel’s matching funds offer was irresistible’.

I also have a non-monetary request. If you are reading this, you are most likely well ahead of the curve of general public awareness and acceptance of the prospect of radical changes in human lifespan. I would be very interested to know your opinions and ideas concerning how to communicate with the public and the media, how you think we can fundraise more effectively and any other feedback you would like to give us.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss these matters further.

Many thanks once again for your support!

Yours sincerely,

Aubrey D.N.J. de Grey, Ph.D.
Chairman and Chief Science Officer
The Methuselah Foundation

Reference Material

To donate:
Thiel Donation:
John Schloendorn:
Mark Hamalainen:

Welcome to the 115th Member of The Three Hundred

A warm welcome to Patri Friedman, the 115th member to join The Three Hundred in support of the Methuselah Foundation’s goals. In his own words:

In the last two years I’ve lost two relatives to a degenerative disease called gniga. Gniga strikes late in life, and is extraordinarily common, being the root cause of perhaps 90% of deaths in the US. Yet for some reason, there is little research being done on how to treat gniga, with the focus mainly being on the individual organ systems it affects. The reasons are unclear – some believe that gniga is untreatable, others believe that it was created by god as part of the human condition, while others think that without it, the world’s population would increase unsustainably.

Gniga, of course, is more commonly known as Aging. I previously mentioned that one way to help is to join the Life Extension Foundation. Another is to donate to The Methuselah Foundation, an organization which sponsors the MPrize for extending the lifespan of a mouse, as well as other research into slowing aging.

Since aging strikes us all (except the unlucky), by helping fund this research you not only increase your chances of living a long and healthy life, but those of everyone else in the world. Seems like a worthy cause.

As more ordinary people of modest means step forward to offer support, scientists will advance more rapidly and effectively towards rejuvenation therapies and a cure for aging. The only way the future comes to pass is through our human actions – to miss out on the potential of biotechnology and aging research all we have to do is stay sitting on the sidelines, assuming that a better future will happen without our aid. So follow in the footsteps of The Three Hundred: take that extra step and do something to help bring about an end to aging!

The Edmonton Aging Symposium – Repair the Damage

Here at the Methuselah Foundation all of our thoughts and energies are focused on one thing, bringing the day of effective anti-aging medicine forward faster so that the suffering and economic burden of age-related disease becomes a historic point of discussion instead of a ongoing brutal reality.

To that end we are always looking for ways to raise awareness of the near-term potential for the development of promsing intervention-oriented aging therapies and one of the opportunities we are helping to organize and support is the Edmonton Aging Symposium.

The Symposium is a unique blend of economics, ethics and the social and biomedical sciences dealing with aging. It is the first serious attempt to bring together individuals from normally disparate communities under one roof to hear the same message of the potential of these new technologies to repair the damage of age-related dysfunction.

The choice of location of the University of Alberta, in Edmonton Alberta Canada, is a logical one. Not only is the University of Alberta a recognized high-quality research center, but resource-rich Alberta is in a unique position in the world. With a surplus of over 8 billion dollars sitting in government coffers due to unexpected increases in oil revenue, the Symposium is meant to provide food for thought as to new directions for diversification, trading dependence on a non-renewable resource to one which has the potential to produce for a globally aging population the most non-renewable resource, time.

The Symposium program includes such speakers as Aubrey de Grey, Judith Campisi, Michael West, Ellen Heber-Katz, Ronald Bailey and a host of others presenting on the state of knowledge of what you can do now to stay healthy while presenting evidence of the future technologies that will be able to take us beyond mere lifestyle choices.

There will be some excellent poster sessions as well as the opportunitiy to discuss the science and bioethics involving effective anti-aging medicine. On the last evening, a send-off dinner and dance with a live rhythm and blues band at the Saturday Night Shake-Up will end everything with a most memorable bang. There will be something for everyone at this groundbreaking gathering.

I hope you have a moment to visit the website at http://www.edmontonagingsymposium.com. Please have a look at the line-up and pricing and perhaps we might see you here in Edmonton, March 30-31 of 2007, to be a part of this exciting event.

Even if you can’t attend, please encourage those who might have a poster they would like to display to do so as there are substantial awards for the best research. Additionally, student travel subsidies of $500 Cdn are also available for those youngsters (or oldsters) who are just at the beginning of their academic journey.

Long life to you and yours,

Kevin Perrott
Outreach Coordinator
Methuselah Foundation


Edmonton Aging Symposium
Dept of Biochemistry
University of Alberta

The Three Hundred Continues to Grow

A warm welcome to Jean David Robert, who became the 114th member of The Three Hundred this week; an auspicious time, as the Mprize fund now passes the $4 million mark. This sizeable research prize purse is influencing the course of anti-aging science, awareness of the potentials and support for extending the healthy human life span.

The Three Hundred continues to grow at a healthy rate, as more philanthropists of modest means step forward to pledge funds in support of the Mprize and SENS research.

At no other time in human history has there been the possibility of a real science based option to aging. At no other time have we had the tools to apply the same intelligence to our biology that has allowed us to walk in space and will help us move into the future. We have those tools now. The proof of principle that validates the hope of an option to aging, exists.

Five thousand years ago, such a hope would have relied on divine intervention. Five hundred years ago, it might have been the promise of alchemy. But today, scientists have more than just tantalizing clues, they are close to knowing the causes of aging and they are on the verge of knowing not only how to stop them, but to reverse them – to lengthen life by extending people’s best years, not their declining ones.

Our fund-raising experience has convinced us that when given the option, there are thousands of individuals and organizations who will be willing to choose life over money. So we decided something special was in order.

That’s where you come in.

Such a way we have come since The Three Hundred was launched – and there is more and better ahead! Thank you all to those who have helped propel the Methuselah Foundation to bring change and new growth in longevity and aging research; we will all benefit in the years to come.

Methuselah Mouse Prize Fund Passes $4 Million Milestone

Lorton, Virginia – With her generous ongoing commitment, Shannon Vyff joins “The 300″, the Methuselah Foundation’s select group of supporters, who have pledged to fund the Methuselah Mouse Prize – the Mprize. The Mprize is a primary undertaking of the Methuselah Foundation and is being offered to the scientific research team that reverses aging in middle-aged experimental mice, allowing them to live the equivalent of an additional healthy lifespan.

What makes Shannon’s contribution even more remarkable is that it follows the extraordinary fund-raising efforts of her daughter Avianna. Encouraged by Shannon, eight year old Avianna went door-to-door and set up a display at her church to collect over $3,000 for the Mprize. Shannon said, “I wanted to set a good example for my children. I do a lot of volunteering through our church and in our community. I want my kids to know that I’m also trying to help them and their children and grandchildren live longer and healthier lives. This is about families – we’re pulling together as a family to support the Mprize because the suffering and death from aging affects all of us – children, grandchildren. There’s a myth that somehow it’s OK for old people to get sick and die because they’re ‘tired of living’. Ask an elderly person who is trying to escape a burning building, or who chooses to purchase a safe vehicle whether she feels she’s lived long enough and is ready to die! I hope more people will donate to the Mprize, because we need to end aging now for real people and real families – not just in science fiction stories.”

Developing interventions which work in mice is a critical precursor to the development of human anti-aging techniques, for once it is demonstrated that aging in mice can be effectively delayed or reversed, popular attitudes which view aging as inevitable will no longer be tenable. When aging in mice is shown to be treatable, the funding necessary for a full-scale assault on the human aging process will begin to flow. The Mprize will act as a proof of concept, and demonstrate that age-related debilities and diseases are no longer inescapable, for both current and future generations.

David Gobel, CEO of the Methuselah Foundation said, “The Mprize is a bold endeavor, and a marvelous legacy to our descendants. While there is no guarantee that The 300 will be fortunate enough to enjoy the anti-aging innovations that will occur this century, it is a testament to their altruism that they are prepared to make this gesture of optimism and hope for those who follow us. From a modest beginning in 2003 the Mprize fund has grown and continues to do so at an accelerating rate, as the notion of improving healthy human longevity continues to progressively make inroads into the public consciousness”.

About the Methuselah Foundation

The Methuselah Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to accelerating the development of foreseeable, science-based therapies to combat aging. Its main activities are the Methuselah Mouse Prize, which is being offered to the scientific research teams that significantly extend the lifespan of middle-aged laboratory mice, and the funding of focused SENS antiaging research. Further details of the Methuselah Foundation can be found at: www.methuselahfoundation.org

Shannon Vyff’s science fiction novel “21st Century Kids” will be released by Warren Publishing in March 2007.

Interviews With LysoSENS and MitoSENS Researchers

Molecular biologist Attila Chordash has been conducting short interviews with the longevity science and advocacy community in recent months; along the way he has interviewed LysoSENS researcher John Schloendorn and MitoSENS researcher Mark Hamalainen – both sponsored by the Methuselah Foundation, as I’m sure you know.

John Schloendorn, the LysoSENS connection: chat on life extension

John Schloendorn has a master’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. Currently he is a graduate student at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, USA. John is heavily involved in the LysoSENS project of the Methuselah Foundation, which aims to remove some intracellular waste products for example via microbe-derived hydrolases targeted to the lysosome. Yes, this is the aubreyesque way of thinking on and experimenting with life extension.

Mark Hamalainen, the MitoSENS fellow: blogterview on life extension

Mark Hamalainen is a young PhD student at Cambridge University at the mitochondrion lab of Ian Holt. Mark received a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in biochemistry and computing from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He also had research training as a visiting scholar at the California Institute of Technology and the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. Mark’s research project is MitoSENS, the artificial transfer of mitochondrial genes to the nucleus in order to defend mitochondrial DNA from the high mutation rate. The technical difficulties of such a project are characterized in this article. The idea generator behind is Aubrey de Grey. I met Mark yesterday at the Eagle Pub and we had a very nice conversation on life extension technologies, strategies and philosophies.

It is good to see a growing community of young life scientists who support and are engaged in the fight against aging – these are the folk who will be building research groups and determining the direction of the field in the late 2010s. They get it – they understand the urgent need to save lives by tackling the aging process, and the possibilities inherent in the biotechnology of today and tomorrow.

The defeat of aging is a plausible, possible goal – but we need to work hard to get there.

Michael Yamashita’s Blog Scan

Herein lies the latest installment of Michael’s view of the blogosphere:

… Today I’m going to do some shameless borrowing. Phil Bowermaster of The Speculist put up such a good entry yesterday that I want to repost it here in its entirety, as well as encourage you to read the original along with all of the other great stuff on Phil’s blog. Too Much Too Soon David M. Ewalt, writing in Forbes about a recent talk given by …
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… A paper by noted aging researcher Aubrey de Grey, The unfortunate influence of the weather on the rate of aging: why human caloric restriction or its emulation may only extend life expectancy by 2-3 years(PDF), argues that calorie restriction may have limited effect on longevity in humans:What has been generally overlooked is that the extent of …
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… Mark Hamalainen is a young PhD student at Cambridge University at the mitochondrion lab of Ian Holt. Mark received a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in biochemistry and computing from Queen’s University in …
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… Huber R. Warner is a biochemist by profession and he initiated and participated in the development of many research areas including: cellular senescence, oxidative stress, apoptosis, functional genomics, the …
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… Critical thinking is crucial to every successful scientific and technological project. In order to consider any attempt to the extension of life in details, we have to take a look at the other side of the coin. So in the future I try to …
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… Right now I’m reading “Citizen Cyborg” by James Hughes, which argues that in the 21st century the dominant political node of contestation will be the right to enhance our bodies and minds as we see fit. So far, he’s reasonably convinced me that in the next thirty-fifty years we …
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… Gerontology is the study of Ageing. Biogerontology is the subfield of gerontology dedicated to studying the specifically biological processes resulting in senescence. Biogerontologists are scientists who study these processes. Biomedical gerontologists are scientists who work to control, prevent, and reverse aging in both humans and animals. eg. …
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… Aubrey de Grey – Defeating aging …
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… Aubrey de Grey, aside from having a premium beard, believes that we can “cure” aging. Here he is speaking at a conference in 2005 (beware, the video is a bit lengthy). …
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A disclaimer: Please note that the blogs linked to here do not represent any official position or opinions of the Methuselah Foundation, and are presented here for your reading. The blogs we present represent only the opinions of their owners and commentators.