Top longevity researchers seek a real fountain of youth

Investments boom in research and treatments aimed at increasing lifespans

By Liz Skinner

May 18, 2015 @ 12:01 am EST

A dizzying number of research institutes, wealthy entrepreneurs and companies, including Google Inc., are investing in research and treatments aimed at creating an ostensible fountain of youth.

Google and Arthur Levinson, Genentech's former chief executive, created a private research and development company two years ago called Calico. The biotech is focused on aging research and therapeutics, and it is partnering with pharmaceutical firm AbbVie to develop and market drugs for the diseases most associated with aging.

Most recently, Calico said it is pairing with the Buck Institute for Research on Aging to support studies of longevity. The Buck Institute houses 21 independent laboratories that explore ways to lengthen the healthy lifespan of people; what it calls “healthspan.”

The institute advocates merging research on age-related diseases with continuing studies on human chronic disease.


“What has come out of our work is a keen understanding that the factors driving aging are highly intertwined, and that in order to extend healthspan we need an integrated approach to health and disease with the understanding that biological systems change with age,” said Brian Kennedy, chief executive of the Buck Institute.

In a separate effort, Joon Yun, the president of health care investment firm Palo Alto Investors, is sponsoring a $1 million Palo Alto Longevity Prize, which will reward scientists who can resolve especially tricky challenges of aging in research animals.

Genomics guru Craig Venter and innovation specialist Peter Diamandis founded Human Longevity Inc., a company using genome data and analytics to fight the diseases that shorten and degrade human life.

And venture capitalist Peter Thiel began funding longevity research nearly a decade ago.

His Thiel Foundation backs the SENS Research Foundation, which is headed by Aubrey de Grey, one of the early scientists to say life spans of 120 or more years could be right around the corner.

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