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$3.5 Million to Mprize from an entrepreneur


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#1 Matt

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 07:44 AM


Entrepreneur backs research on anti-aging

http://sfgate.com/cg...LIVEFOREVER.TMP

A controversial scientist who hopes to help humans live for thousands of years has received a multimillion-dollar grant from a Bay Area entrepreneur.

Peter A. Thiel, co-founder and former chief executive officer of the online payments system PayPal, announced Saturday he is pledging $3.5 million "to support scientific research into the alleviation and eventual reversal of the debilities caused by aging."

The recipient will be the Methuselah Foundation, a Springfield, Va., nonprofit started and run by the most colorful scientist in aging research: Aubrey de Grey, a 43-year-old English researcher who says he hopes to "radically postpone aging, giving indefinite life spans."

In short, de Grey's thesis is that there are seven main causes of aging, and that if those can be licked, then people could live indefinitely.

Among aging experts, de Grey's reputation is so widely contested that a headline over an article last year in an MIT-based publication, Technology Review, asked: "He's brilliant, but is he nuts?" In a tongue-in-cheek letter to the magazine in response to the story, top aging authority Richard Miller, of the University of Michigan, wrote that he'd like de Grey to help him solve a similarly complex technological problem: how to make pigs fly.

De Grey told The Chronicle in e-mails and phone conversations last week that he isn't disturbed by scientific critics. Some of them, he noted, argue that death is inevitable because the cells and genes of living organisms inevitably accumulate errors that eventually kill them. But, he pointed out, because of careful upkeep "we have vintage cars driving around that were designed to last 15 years -- and they're 100 years old."

So why should humans be any different?

De Grey, who received a doctorate in biology at Cambridge University in 2000 and worked in the university's genetics department from 1992 until a few months ago, characterized the $3.5 million grant as a "major breakthrough" in his effort to get research on indefinite extension of lifespan "really moving in the laboratory."

"It's "pump-priming," he said. "I need probably $1 billion over 10 years" to achieve that goal."

Advocates of indefinite life extension seem to hope the future will resemble the film "Boynton Beach Club," in which white-haired, super-fit senior citizens party, play and have busy sex lives that would shame a college fraternity. But critics of de Grey-style longevity research fear that if everyone lived indefinitely, Earth would become miserably packed with old, sick people, and nursing homes would be more ubiquitous than Starbucks.

De Grey is confident that humanity will figure out a solution to the crowding dilemma. One possibility: "Maybe people of the future will decide that children are not much fun anyway and will reduce the birth rate," he said.

Aging experts tended to have a strong personal liking for de Grey, and said he had stimulated some interesting thinking in aging research, but believe that in recent years, he has become sensationalistic in his public comments.

"Many of my colleagues are extremely critical of him -- they believe he's a pseudoscientist, that he is out for publicity -- and that he has no redeeming features," said Judith Campisi, a cell and molecular biologist who has joint appointments at the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"I must say I don't agree with that," added Campisi. "I do think he started out sincerely hoping to stimulate interesting research. And I think in his small way he did get people to think. ... But where he seems to have lost his way is he doesn't listen to rational argument anymore."

S. Jay Olshansky, a demographer at the University of Illinois who confronted de Grey on CBS's "60 Minutes" earlier this year, added: "Where I have vehemently disagreed with Aubrey is where he tries to convince people, especially reporters, that we are on the verge of immortality -- that we have people alive today who will live for 1,000 or for 5,000 years."

At present scientists don't even know what causes aging, but "Aubrey seems to think that he does -- that there are seven (causes for aging), that we have to reengineer the body to eliminate them, and that we'll live forever.

"In the world of science," Olshansky said, "you don't make declarative statements (like that) without evidence to support them."

No. 1 on de Grey's list of seven causes of aging to target is the atrophy or degeneration of cells. Others include gene mutations, mutations to the energy-generating mitochondria inside cells, and the unhealthy accumulation of "junk" inside and outside cells such as the amyloid proteins found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

In response to Olshansky's criticism, de Grey told The Chronicle by e-mail that "I have published a lot of papers that provide the scientific basis for my optimism."

Thiel could not be reached for comment.

Edited by Matt, 18 September 2006 - 08:36 AM.


#2 opales

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 09:21 AM

Well this is pretty good news [lol]

#3 JonesGuy

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 10:57 AM

Is it a research grant, or a prize grant?
Either way ... WOW
If there's one thing we can say abou the .com millionaires; a lot of them are true believers in advancing our species.

#4 Da55id

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 12:32 PM

Good morning,

This is a grant to further the SENS research and early on will be focused on developing allotopic expression of mitochondrail genes.

Cheers,
Dave

#5 jaydfox

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 12:36 PM

This is a grant to further the SENS research and early on will be focused on developing allotopic expression of mitochondrail genes.

So the timing with the announcement of MitoSENS isn't just a coincidence then, eh?

#6 jaydfox

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 02:04 PM

I just received the following press release from the Methuselah Foundation. It should have been sent to all members of the 300, several of which are members here at ImmInst.

Hey, that just got me to thinking: we should have a page honoring our members who are also 300 members. With a casual pass through the list of the current 100 members of the 300, I counted 16 that I knew for sure were ImmInst members, not including the membership of the Immortality Institute itself. I don't know the real names of many ImmInst members, so I wouldn't be surprised if we had 20 members on that list.

Anyway, back to the press release:

For Immediate Release

September 18, 2006

PayPal Founder pledges $3.5 Million to antiaging research

Peter Thiel puts his weight behind Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s engineering blueprint for alleviating the debilities caused by aging

San Francisco –Peter A. Thiel, co-founder and former CEO of online payments system PayPal, and Founder and Managing Member of Clarium Capital Management, a San Francisco-based hedge fund, today announced his pledge of $3.5 Million to support scientific research into the alleviation and eventual reversal of the debilities caused by aging, to be conducted under the auspices of the Methuselah Foundation, a charity co-founded and Chaired by Dr. Aubrey de Grey.

Mr. Thiel commented "Rapid advances in biological science foretell of a treasure trove of
discoveries this century, including dramatically improved health and longevity for
all. Im backing Dr. de Grey, because I believe that his revolutionary approach to aging research will accelerate this process, allowing many people alive today to enjoy radically longer and healthier lives for themselves and their loved ones.


Mr. Thiel will donate a total of $500,000 over the next three years to fund pilot research projects intended to deliver early stage validation of the “SENS” approach to combating the debilitation caused by aging.

Additionally, from now until the end of 2009, Mr. Thiel promises to match every Dollar donated to the Methuselah Foundation for SENS research with a 50 cent matching contribution from himself, up to a maximum of $3 Million of matching funds.

Dr. de Grey said “I am extremely grateful to Peter for his bold and visionary initiative. I have been working with leading biologists and biochemists around the world in identifying promising research projects, and with this generous donation we will go to work straightaway.”



#7 Mind

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 02:23 PM

Now Imminst is contributing to the fight against aging in another indirect way. Our member donations all go through Paypal. Thank you Peter Thiel for getting MitoSENS off the ground. Thanks to all the Imminst members who have supported the Mprize and LysoSENS!

#8 DukeNukem

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 05:05 PM

This is the exact sizable contribution from a Silicon Valley star needed to make others take notice. It suspect that other similar contribution will come soon. The door has been opened...

#9 jaydfox

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 05:57 PM

Here's a link to a press release that seems to match the one I quoted:
http://www.marketwir...lease_id=163952

#10 MichaelAnissimov

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 06:06 PM

Peter Thiel is not any typical dot com megamillionaire... he is very intelligent (chess champion) and has been a serious transhumanist for a while. As Hank mentioned, he is also an SIAI donor, as well as an investor in Novamente.

#11 Mind

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 06:16 PM

This is the exact sizable contribution from a Silicon Valley star needed to make others take notice. It suspect that other similar contribution will come soon. The door has been opened...


No doubt about it. There may need to be some sort of positive research results (in either LysoSENS or MitoSENS) before the next big donors jump in but I am sure they have noticed.

#12 jaydfox

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 02:44 AM

Peter Thiel is not any typical dot com megamillionaire...

Whether or not Thiel is a "typical dot com megamillionaire", he has nonetheless willingly attached his name, and significant money, to the SENS program. The next megamillionaire, typical or not, need not fear that he or she is treading into unchartered waters, nor blazing a trail that will be attached to his or her name if things backfire.

Thiel isn't just a megamillionaire, he's well-known, even if only by association: people may not know the name Peter Thiel, but just about everybody who knows anything about the internet knows about PayPal. That he's very intelligent, a chess champion, manages a multi-billion dollar hedge fund, etc., only adds to the credibility that his support is calculated and well-placed, not just wishful thinking.

#13

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 03:28 AM

Kudo's also to whoever aproached Thiel and negotiated this deal - who was it?

#14 opales

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 06:26 AM

I would assume it being Aubrey himself, they are both in the SIAI advisory board

http://www.singinst....isoryboard.html

#15 marcus

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 06:36 AM

This is great news for SENS and congratulations to Osiris. The biggest benefit from today's announcement is in raising the profile for serious anti-aging research.

An interesting side note is that Peter Thiel would have to be considered one of the biggest bears on Wall Street and his fund is primarily a short seller. I also know he was one of the first to really get behind oil futures a couple of years ago and he had to do well there. I guess you could maybe argue something good has come of high gas prices. :)

Marcus

#16 Mind

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 02:11 PM

About a year and a half ago (or maybe it was 2 years already), when oil was only 42 dollars a barrel, I made a half-hearted suggestion that Imminst should buy oil futures with some of its funds. I thought it would be our best chance to double our funds within one year. Oil didn't quite double but it did get above 60 within a year and then unltimately topped out at 78 this summer. Realistically, futures markets are too risky to invest in (with Imminst money), even though it seemed like a good bet at the time.

Lately, I am sure a few energy traders lost their shirt with the abrupt drop in oil, gasoline, and natural gas.

In any case I hope Thiel continues to invest wisely....that way there may be more funds for MitoSENS and LysoSENS and other anti-aging projects in the future.

#17 marcus

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 07:30 PM

Mind,

Investing in futures is always a risky proposition due to the time horizon contstraints. You might be right in the direction the market is headed, but you also need good timing. More then a few times I've had call options on a stock/index/commodity not pan out because I was a little early and didn't pay up for contracts with far enough away expiration dates. Definitely futures are only for high risk capital. Personally, I think we may be seeing the floor on oil prices as everyone from airlines to trucking industries to entire governments are more inclined to hedge their future energy costs by buying up futures to relatively lock in today's prices.

Back to the main point, however, which is it is great to see someone with Thiel's profile getting behind SENS. There are probably quite a few more high profile people with resources who are at least aware of the science and what it is trying to accomplish thanks to his open involvement.

Marcus

#18 rombus

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 11:37 PM

This is great news!

Edited by rombus, 20 September 2006 - 11:54 PM.


#19 jaydfox

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 11:43 PM

Additional forum discussion:
http://www.imminst.o...=ST&f=1&t=12489
http://www.imminst.o...ST&f=69&t=12490

Update: Another forum link:
http://www.imminst.o...ST&f=44&t=12496

Edited by jaydfox, 20 September 2006 - 04:09 PM.


#20 advancedatheist

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 02:11 AM

Maybe Thiel realizes that his efforts to build wealth will turn to ashes in few decades (if not sooner) because of our universal vulnerability to aging and death. Super-wealthy people tend to die pretty much "on schedule" like non-wealthy people in developed societies, whereas none of the supercentenarians I've heard of ever had that much in the way of financial success. Thiel probably wants to start out by buying the biochemical equivalent of the supers' longevity genes to get him to the one-hundred-teens, with the prospect of further advances coming onto the market by then to give him a few more centuries.

Given Thiel's libertarian associations, I wonder if he goes along with the lame Objectivist rationalization that at death you don't "lose" your life, but rather "complete" it. I doubt many Objectivists would consider their personal bankruptcy the "completion" of their hard-earned money.

#21 MichaelAnissimov

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 07:58 PM

Additional forum discussion:
http://www.imminst.o...=ST&f=1&t=12489
http://www.imminst.o...ST&f=69&t=12490

Update: Another forum link:
http://www.imminst.o...ST&f=44&t=12496


Jay, these are called "dupes".

#22 jaydfox

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 08:03 PM

I know they're dupes. I'd like to collect as many of the external links as possible. If I felt more pro-active, I would scrape for new links, post them here, and delete the dupes. I wasn't feeling as pro-active in this case. It was easier to just link to the other discussion topics.

#23 jaydfox

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 10:55 PM

Slashdot picked this up. Whoever submitted the story seems to have botched a few of the details:
http://science.slash...0/0032201.shtml

Paypal Co-Founder Backs Anti-Aging Research Prize
Posted by kdawson on Wednesday September 20, @06:04AM
from the my-mouse-is-older-than-your-mouse dept.


Baldrson writes,
"Anti-aging researchers, via The Methuselah Mouse Prize or M-Prize, are receiving an additional $3 million incentive to stop and reverse aging. Researchers win M-Prize money in increments by breaking longevity records for mice or reversing their aging. The philanthropic donation comes from Peter Thiel, co-founder and former CEO of PayPal. Mr. Thiel has pledged to match each dollar donated to the M-Prize with his own 50 cent contributions up to $3 million."

The M-Prize was created by Aubrey de Grey, a controversial biomedical gerontologist in Cambridge, England.

The story gets the amount wrong (it totals $3.5 million, not $3 million), and it incorrectly states that the matching fund will match M-Prize contributions (it will only match SENS research contributions), but hey, it's coverage.

#24 Da55id

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Posted 22 September 2006 - 12:11 AM

We just recieved a $250,000 pledge for the Rejuvenation Mprize - now THAT's a 300 member :-)

#25

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Posted 22 September 2006 - 01:05 AM

That's sensational - you must be getting close to $4 million!

#26 reason

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Posted 22 September 2006 - 04:35 AM

(hankconn)
Notice how thoroughly SENS, de Grey, and the entire concept of life extension were completely rejected by the vast majority of Slashdot posters...


Interesting, that, given they were much less harsh the last time around.

#27 jaydfox

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Posted 22 September 2006 - 04:43 AM

Nerds might have some technical skills and a decent grasp of math, and some of them are even fairly intelligent. But the acceptance of aging and death that is programmed into us from birth is fairly universal.

Before Roger what's-his-bucket broke the four-minute-mile barrier, it was considered impossible. Within a few weeks of breaking the four-minute barrier, it was done again by someone else. Now it's a training target for longer-distance runners.

This anecdote is commonly told in reference to the idea that if you can believe something, you can achieve it; or more accurately, if you can't believe something, you most likely won't achieve it. More relevant perhaps here, is that it's very hard to believe something that hasn't been achieved, and easier to believe something that has been achieved.

Most people have it ingrained in them to believe that aging and death are inevitable. Hence, even a detailed scientific plan to deal with aging won't suffice. Most won't bother to study the particulars, and even many who do will still doubt, as we've seen countless times.

It may likely still be a decade or more before the general population begins to believe, to really believe. For some, that belief will unravel many of the truths they hold in life. They will refuse to believe. Much like people of decades past refused to believe that a computer could beat the world chess champion. Much like people today refuse to believe that computers will some day be smarter than humans in general.

#28 Aegist

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 01:02 AM

Very cool. Great work Aubrey!

Regardless of what any critics say, and regardless of whether it is acheived in our time or not, the more money which comes into this particular field of research, the better it is, and the faster it will come about.

The parable of the dragon sums it up nicely I think, and if people could jsut see that it can be done all we need is the money and the manpower, then it could certainly be knocked over in our lifetime. just ebcause we dont yet know exactly how, doesn't mean we can't make it happen fast!

Maybe if someone could show that eternal youth solves terrorism...maybe then it would be done in the next few years....

#29 Ghostrider

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 05:24 AM

I become somewhat frustrated when considering how much money is being thrown at worthless studies aimed at studying the social implications and life style changes of aging. I am talking about millions of dollars a year to determine how old people live. Why not throw the money at an attempt to fix the problem rather than study how it affects people? Then there is the US defense budget. Check out the chart on this page:

http://www.brillig.c..._clock/faq.html

This will make you sick: http://zfacts.com/p/461.html

Time to move to Canada? How will the US survive?

#30 samadkhurram

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Posted 11 April 2007 - 03:37 PM

It will be great if other millionaires would realize that the best use of their money is with ImmInst.




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