Funding Aging Research
The SENS Foundation is a public charity based in California, and its purpose is to fill a niche in the research funding chain. Private sector research, particularly in the drug industry, has funds to drive important research, but only after it’s clear that the odds of success are good, the time frame is reasonably short, and the potential for profit large. At the other end of the research spectrum, public sector research funding is available for basic research that doesn’t have an immediate commercial purpose.
However, in Dr. de Grey’s view, and his colleagues as well, there’s a midway point between the private sector funding and the public sector, and this midpoint is often neglected. Research that may yield incalculable commercial success (and public benefit as well), may be at such an early stage of development that it doesn’t yet attract commercial funders. “We exist to make sure that this kind of intermediate research is not neglected,” he says.
An example of this is the SENS work on cardiovascular disease. “Industry has statins that delay the progression of atherosclerosis, but part of how they work is, they lower levels of the kind of cholesterol that’s good for us, and this means undesirable side effects. Our approach is to deal with the real problem by going after only the kinds of cholesterol that are the originators of atherosclerosis.”
SENS researchers are developing new enzymes not found in the human body. They have already published some proof of concept research, and they expect to publish mouse model studies in the not too distant future. When this happens, private sector funding is likely to be forthcoming. But SENS was needed for the intermediate research. Dr. de Grey wants to see all strands of regenerative medicine make progress, since it will take all of these strands to cure aging.
People no longer refer to Aubrey de Grey as a “maverick” or “heretic.” “These days, I’m more often called ‘controversial,’” he says, sounding pleased with this new characterization.
“Controversial,” after all can be translated as, “might be right.”
Want more Aubrey de Grey? Check out the video below (if the embedded video does not work, click here):