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Re: [givewell] Biomedical research

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  • Aubrey de Grey
    Hello Brian, Thanks for this question. In brief, the main differences between SENS Foundation and the Buck are quite similar to those between SENS Foundation
    Message 1 of 18 , Oct 30, 2012
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      Hello Brian,

      Thanks for this question. In brief, the main differences between SENS Foundation and the Buck are quite similar to those between SENS Foundation and the NIA, because their funding sources and mechanisms are largely the same. The Buck was founded with a substantial endowment, but that is only a minor source of its scientists' research funds: most of it is from the same sources that university labs use, namely the NIA and other public or philanthropic sources (such as the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine or the Ellison Medical Foundation) that evaluate grant applications by methods that have the various shortcomings I described earlier. The Buck scientists produce excellent work, no question, but ultimately their research priorities are constrained to be no different than other conventionally-funded scientists in universities. In particular, they can only pay lip service to the idea of truly translational research that takes us closer to bringing human aging under genuine medical control.

      Cheers, Aubrey

      On 30 Oct 2012, at 00:45, Brian Douglas Skinner wrote:

      > Hi Aubrey,
      >
      >
      > Thanks for the detailed answer to Holden's question about the differences between what the NIA is doing and what the SENS Foundation is doing.
      >
      > If you have a moment, I have a follow-up question: can you give a quick summary of the main differences between what the SENS Foundation is doing and what the Buck Institute is doing, and the difference between funding one of those vs. the other?
      >
      > Thanks,
      > Brian Skinner
      >
      >
      >
      > On Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 11:39 AM, Aubrey de Grey <aubrey@...> wrote:
      >
      > Hello Susheela,
      >
      > Yes, I expected that some people here would be interested in discussing these topics, even if Holden't focus is currently more on whom best to fund to get the job done.
      >
      > Your first question is one that gives rise to a big outreach dilemma, as it happens. A major reason why the SENS approach (turning back the aging clock with regenerative medicine, rather than slowing the clock down) is so attractive is that it buys so much time to figure out what to do next, i.e. how to make the therapies a notch better so that they can address what you term the next frontier. If we can rejuvenate 60-year-olds well enough that they won't be biologically 60 again until they're chronologically 90 - which is what I believe the "first-generation" SENS therapies will deliver - then we have all those 30 years to develop second-generation therapies that deliver a further 30 years of postponement, and so on. From what we know about the nature of the molecular and cellular damage that these therapies will repair, we can say with great confidence (or so I claim!) that these further improvements will overwhelmingly be in the form of relatively minor extensions of/variations on the initial therapies, which implies that it is vanishingly unlikely that progress will be so slow that we fail to stay one step ahead of the problem. (I have termed the necessary rate of improvement of the therapies "longevity escape velocity".) So, what this means is that for practical purposes we can regard the initial SENS therapies as delivering, with high probability, an indefinite postponement of age-related ill-health. The outreach dilemma is that objectively this is great, since the gain would absolutely be in terms of health costs as well as healthy longevity, but emotionally it ignites all kinds of knee-jerk reactions concerning the nature of a post-aging world, such as overpopulation risks, pensions crises, dictators living forever etc etc, which in my experience are powerful disincentives to supporting this work despite the acknowledgement that (a) health is good and (b) old people are people too, which in my view is pretty much all o ne needs to acknowledge in order to want aging to be eliminated.
      >
      > On your second question, for sure there are issues here that cause some people to hesitate. Ultimately the question breaks down (I believe) into the following categories:
      >
      > Positive:
      > 1 how valuable is the anticipated health gain over the period when someone would otherwise be in impaired health?
      > 2 how valuable is the anticipated additional [all healthy] healthy longevity gain?
      > 3 how valuable are the anticipated gains in quality of life resulting indirectly from expecting to live a lot longer?
      >
      > Negative:
      > 4 how valuable are the lives that might not exist if we curtailed the birth rate more than we otherwise might?
      > 5 how valuable are the aspects of today's life that might be compromised by the expectation of much longer lives?
      >
      > My own view is that (1) and 2) are definitely as big as any other humanitarian mission, that (3) could be huge too (for example we might try a lot harder to combat climate change, end war etc), that (4) is unclear even if we regard future people as important, because we're curtailing the birth rate so fast anyway, and that (5) is a figment of Luddite imagination. But others may disagree! In particular, there seems to be a fairly widespread notion that (chronologically) old people really are less deserving of medical care than the young - and I refer here to intrinsic merits, independent of today's problem that it's in practice harder to give the elderly as much additional healthy life as the young. Whether this is a legitimate view or one that we must work against in the same way that people worked against the acceptance of slavery is a matter for debate.
      >
      > Cheers, Aubrey
      >
      >
      >
      > On 15 Oct 2012, at 04:05, Susheela Peres da Costa wrote:
      >
      > > sorry, realise a sentence wasn't finished, amended below
      > >
      > > On 15 October 2012 12:43, Susheela Peres da Costa <susheela.peresdacosta@...> wrote:
      > > Aubrey, I would love to hear more about two things you raise as worthwhile questions.
      > >
      > > 1) The distinction between longevity on the one hand and the postponement of age-related ill health on the other (I understand the different definitions, but am interested in thoughts on the likely implications of each for the other, in a real-world population-wide context - for instance, would better health in one's 70s-80s result in viewing the demise of health in 90s-100s as the next frontier, essentially buying a net longevity gain rather than a net health-costs gain?)
      > >
      > > 2) In the context of any implications for longevity, whether / why "the medical control of aging [is] a hugely valuable mission?" relative to other uses of philanthropic funds for medical research.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
    • Brian Douglas Skinner
      Hi Aubrey, Thanks for the quick response. That gives me a better understanding for where the Buck Institute fits in the landscape of organizations. Best, Brian
      Message 2 of 18 , Oct 30, 2012
      • 0 Attachment
        Hi Aubrey, 

        Thanks for the quick response. That gives me a better understanding for where the Buck Institute fits in the landscape of organizations.

        Best,
           Brian


        On Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 2:20 AM, Aubrey de Grey <aubrey@...> wrote:
        Hello Brian,

        Thanks for this question. In brief, the main differences between SENS Foundation and the Buck are quite similar to those between SENS Foundation and the NIA, because their funding sources and mechanisms are largely the same. The Buck was founded with a substantial endowment, but that is only a minor source of its scientists' research funds: most of it is from the same sources that university labs use, namely the NIA and other public or philanthropic sources (such as the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine or the Ellison Medical Foundation) that evaluate grant applications by methods that have the various shortcomings I described earlier. The Buck scientists produce excellent work, no question, but ultimately their research priorities are constrained to be no different than other conventionally-funded scientists in universities. In particular, they can only pay lip service to the idea of truly translational research that takes us closer to bringing human aging under genuine medical control.

        Cheers, Aubrey

        On 30 Oct 2012, at 00:45, Brian Douglas Skinner wrote:

        > Hi Aubrey,
        >
        >
        > Thanks for the detailed answer to Holden's question about the differences between what the NIA is doing and what the SENS Foundation is doing.
        >
        > If you have a moment, I have a follow-up question: can you give a quick summary of the main differences between what the SENS Foundation is doing and what the Buck Institute is doing, and the difference between funding one of those vs. the other?
        >
        > Thanks,
        >    Brian Skinner
        >
        >
        >
        > On Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 11:39 AM, Aubrey de Grey <aubrey@...> wrote:
        >
        > Hello Susheela,
        >
        > Yes, I expected that some people here would be interested in discussing these topics, even if Holden't focus is currently more on whom best to fund to get the job done.
        >
        > Your first question is one that gives rise to a big outreach dilemma, as it happens. A major reason why the SENS approach (turning back the aging clock with regenerative medicine, rather than slowing the clock down) is so attractive is that it buys so much time to figure out what to do next, i.e. how to make the therapies a notch better so that they can address what you term the next frontier. If we can rejuvenate 60-year-olds well enough that they won't be biologically 60 again until they're chronologically 90 - which is what I believe the "first-generation" SENS therapies will deliver - then we have all those 30 years to develop second-generation therapies that deliver a further 30 years of postponement, and so on. From what we know about the nature of the molecular and cellular damage that these therapies will repair, we can say with great confidence (or so I claim!) that these further improvements will overwhelmingly be in the form of relatively minor extensions of/variations on the initial therapies, which implies that it is vanishingly unlikely that progress will be so slow that we fail to stay one step ahead of the problem. (I have termed the necessary rate of improvement of the therapies "longevity escape velocity".) So, what this means is that for practical purposes we can regard the initial SENS therapies as delivering, with high probability, an indefinite postponement of age-related ill-health. The outreach dilemma is that objectively this is great, since the gain would absolutely be in terms of health costs as well as healthy longevity, but emotionally it ignites all kinds of knee-jerk reactions concerning the nature of a post-aging world, such as overpopulation risks, pensions crises, dictators living forever etc etc, which in my experience are powerful disincentives to supporting this work despite the acknowledgement that (a) health is good and (b) old people are people too, which in my view is pretty much all o ne needs to acknowledge in order to want aging to be eliminated.
        >
        > On your second question, for sure there are issues here that cause some people to hesitate. Ultimately the question breaks down (I believe) into the following categories:
        >
        > Positive:
        > 1 how valuable is the anticipated health gain over the period when someone would otherwise be in impaired health?
        > 2 how valuable is the anticipated additional [all healthy] healthy longevity gain?
        > 3 how valuable are the anticipated gains in quality of life resulting indirectly from expecting to live a lot longer?
        >
        > Negative:
        > 4 how valuable are the lives that might not exist if we curtailed the birth rate more than we otherwise might?
        > 5 how valuable are the aspects of today's life that might be compromised by the expectation of much longer lives?
        >
        > My own view is that (1) and 2) are definitely as big as any other humanitarian mission, that (3) could be huge too (for example we might try a lot harder to combat climate change, end war etc), that (4) is unclear even if we regard future people as important, because we're curtailing the birth rate so fast anyway, and that (5) is a figment of Luddite imagination. But others may disagree! In particular, there seems to be a fairly widespread notion that (chronologically) old people really are less deserving of medical care than the young - and I refer here to intrinsic merits, independent of today's problem that it's in practice harder to give the elderly as much additional healthy life as the young. Whether this is a legitimate view or one that we must work against in the same way that people worked against the acceptance of slavery is a matter for debate.
        >
        > Cheers, Aubrey
        >
        >
        >
        > On 15 Oct 2012, at 04:05, Susheela Peres da Costa wrote:
        >
        > > sorry, realise a sentence wasn't finished, amended below
        > >
        > > On 15 October 2012 12:43, Susheela Peres da Costa <susheela.peresdacosta@...> wrote:
        > > Aubrey, I would love to hear more about two things you raise as worthwhile questions.
        > >
        > > 1) The distinction between longevity on the one hand and the postponement of age-related ill health on the other (I understand the different definitions, but am interested in thoughts on the likely implications of each for the other, in a real-world population-wide context - for instance, would better health in one's 70s-80s result in viewing the demise of health in 90s-100s as the next frontier, essentially buying a net longevity gain rather than a net health-costs gain?)
        > >
        > > 2) In the context of any implications for longevity, whether / why "the medical control of aging [is] a hugely valuable mission?" relative to other uses of philanthropic funds for medical research.
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >


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