Rather than the National Institutes of Health designating public funds to further research towards development of an anti-aging pill, a key group of billionaire oligarchs now lead private enterprise ventures to discover ways to halt, slow or even reverse aging.
The anti-aging business has become a rich man’s pastime. Silicon Valley billionaires dot the anti-aging landscape: Methuselah Foundation’s Peter Thiel, Google’s/Alphabet’s Larry Page, Oracles’s Larry Ellison, Juvenesce’s Jim Mellon, to name a few. These billionaires who provide the capital have everything anyone would want in life except immortality.
A recent issue of The New Yorker described “the frustration of many successful rich people that life is too short: ‘We have all this money, but we only get to live a normal life span’.” [“Silicon Valley’s Quest To Live Forever” The New Yorker, April 3, 2017]
That is the impetus driving the quest for biological immortality by billionaires who now believe they can conquer aging. This may be the greatest technological mountain man has ever attempted to climb.
Actually, wealthy Americans are living longer already. While a “long life” is on a list of fifty things money can’t buy [Inc.com], a modern truth is that people in the U.S. with higher incomes are living up to 20+ years longer (variance 66 to 87 years). Obesity, lack of exercise, smoking and diabetes, emanating from poor diets and nutrition, account for 74% of the variation. [CNN May 9, 2017; JAMA May 8, 2017] But the kind of longevity Silicone Valley technocrats are talking about is more like 120+ years.
But don’t bet on biotechnology. A report on “The Business of Anti-Aging Science” states: “Of the 4000 private and 600 public biotech companies worldwide, only a few percent have shown increasing profitability. Historically, only one in 5000 discovery-stage drug candidates obtain approval and only a third of those recoup their R&D costs.” The report says it will be a surprise if the biotech companies in the anti-aging business today are active 5-10 years from now.
Patting themselves on the back
The financial elites appear to be congratulating themselves ahead of any achievements. U.S. President Barack Obama recently presented Arthur Levinson of Calico Life Sciences, with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Money can buy medals and trophies, but precisely what has Calico Life Sciences achieved so far?
The amount of venture capital devoted to this ambitious effort to put an end to the curse of aging that has plagued mankind ranges from $1.5 billion at Google’s CALICO to $12 million at Insilico.
A striking problem is that these oligarchs are investing their millions of dollars in anticipation of a monstrous return on their investment.
Longevity on their terms
Whatever these biotechnology startups have in mind, they are carving out their own niche in the anti-aging business and the public had better take what they are offered and make the oligarchs that own or manage these enterprises even richer than they already are now.
Oligarchs have enough political clout to block anti-aging technologies that are more cost effective (less profitable) or compete with their inventions.
Political clout is used to eliminate competition. As an example, the Department of Justice has now entered the regulation of dietary supplements and has criminalized nutraceuticals that make anti-aging claims. Bankers are delegated to remove online marketers who tout anti-aging properties for their nutraceutical products. Bankers now have authority to arbitrarily remove merchant accounts for nutraceutical companies that make such product claims. You can bet the Department of Justice isn’t taking any action against new biotech companies that make similar claims.
The Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics & Public Policy serves as a scientific background source for journalists on the topic of dietary supplements. That media resource center serves up specious reviews of nutraceuticals. Harvard is also reported to have brought in $27.8 million in licensing revenues from its pharmaceutical patent holdings. It’s a cabal against anti-aging pills that aren’t backed by well-positioned oligarchs.
Facing financial realities
But the problem is, they may be the only people who can afford their own inventions.
The much-publicized anti-aging business appears to be out of touch with financial reality.
Not only are Americans living a lifestyle on borrowed money ($1 trillion of credit card debt and counting) with its government having doled out $13.6 trillion of benefits beyond what it has collected in taxes over recent years, the consumer economy in America is weakened by current socio-economic factors.
According to economist John Williams at ShadowStats.com, the hidden unemployment rate is more like 22%. Inflation hides the fact wages have been stagnant for over 40 years in America. And robots are predicted to eliminate 6% of all the jobs in the US by 2021. With limited disposable income, this doesn’t sound like a consumer economy that is ready to buy anti-aging pills.
Given that three-quarters of the world’s population earns less than $4 a day, such business ventures would be narrowly aimed at populations in industrialized countries that presumably have sufficient incomes to purchase anti-aging technologies. But imagine the outcry to get such an anti-aging pill throughout the undeveloped world.
Presume some potion, pill or blood transfusion is scientifically proven to favorably alter measures of aging (there’s no practical way to conclusively prove anything prolongs human life as that would require a decades-long study). Just what will it cost and who is going to pay for it?
At one point in time (~2004) the Rand Corporation think-thank penciled in a $1/day anti-aging pill into future Medicare budgets. But that idea fell by the wayside.
There are ~50 million Americans age 65 and over who are on Medicare. If Medicare paid for $1/day anti-aging pill and 75% complied with taking it, some 38 million retirees would cost $13.7 billion. Said another way, an anti-aging pill would only have to save $365/year in healthcare costs to be a break-even proposition.
A $1/day anti-aging pill would only have to save $365/year in healthcare costs to be a break-even proposition.
Insurance companies and Medicare pay for diagnosis and treatment of diseases, not aging. And just how and when would a physician diagnose an individual with “premature aging?”
Scientifically but not politically ready
The masses are being manipulated by their handlers. Unless the President or some religious leader like the Pope steps forward to give their blessing to this idea, the pursuit of super-longevity is going to be an individual one, not a societal one. There will be no herd consensus to take such pills. Politicians recognize superlongevity breaks the bank at the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.
The pursuit of super-longevity is going to be an individual one, not a societal one.
Scientifically but not politically ready
“Are we really ready to engineer humanity’s future and manage the benefits and dangers derived from the use of these emerging technologies in our life?” “Yes,” say European researchers who answer conditionally in the affirmative in a report entitled “Engineering Posthumans: To Be or Not To Be?”
One recent report says “the rise in life expectancy is not accompanies by the same increment of healthspan…. One of the most hopeful directions is the development of anti-aging medicines that increase the ratio of health to unhealthy population due to delay of the onset of age-associated chronic pathologies.”
In the past decade the community of anti-aging researchers has learned that genes have an active principal that can be controlled by methylation of DNA, by microRNA and modification of histone bodies that wrap around genes.
Some researchers now say: “by revisiting these well characterized interventions we may be able to identify targetable effectors of chromatin function and use this knowledge to enhance healthspan and longevity in human populations through the measured application of dietary and small molecule interventions.” Those gene targets have already been identified.
Anti-aging researchers report that long-lived individuals have a young epigenetic age compared with their chronological age.
Mice subjected to limited calorie intake, or a molecular mimic of the same (rapamycin), are significantly younger epigenetically.
Going where the medical establishment won’t go
Longevity could be big business, very big business. Now that oligarchs have everything they want but immortality, a growing number have chosen to invest their money where the medical establishment won’t go.
Now that oligarchs have everything they want but immortality, a growing number have chosen to invest their money where the medical establishment won’t go.
A so-called anti-aging pill would at its best cut a large swath through the heart of chronic age-related disease and could save trillions of dollars in healthcare costs. But not if it is going to cost thousands of dollars for a year-long regimen of anti-aging pills.
Global spending on healthcare in 184 countries was $7.83 trillion in 2013 and is expected to soar to $18.28 trillion by 2040. US healthcare spending reached an historic high of $10,345 per person in 2016. The US spent $3.35 trillion on healthcare expenditures in 2016, about 17.8% of the nation’s gross domestic product.
Any affordable technology that prolongs the number of years of healthy living would unequivocally save billions if not trillions of dollars. But politically, government economists are relying upon new jobs in the healthcare field taking care of senior Americans to reduce unemployment. Politically an anti-aging pill is a crossed wire.
Clinically, don’t expect any technology that reduces healthcare costs to be popular with physicians. Prevention in the minds of most doctors equates with more expeditions (screening mammograms, PSA tests, colonoscopies) to find more disease to treat. Ironically, Medicare pays $100,000 or more to keep a cancer patient alive for another 3-4 months but hasn’t even approached the idea of spending a dollar a day for an anti-aging pill that might add years to one’s lifespan.
Ironically, Medicare pays $100,000 or more to keep a cancer patient alive for another 3-4 months but can’t fathom spending a dollar a day for an anti-aging pill that might add years to one’s life.
The public insurance pools are empty
What the public and physicians fail to recognize (or frankly don’t want to know) is that the Medicare trust fund is full of IOUs, promises to pay called US Treasury Notes. These IOUs are backed by nothing other than the full faith and credit of a nation is in deep debt and paying $400 billion a year in interest on the national debt.
Various authorities deny the Medicare Trust Fund is insolvent. The Center for Budget Policy & Priorities says that won’t happen till 2029. The Committee For A Responsible Federal Budget says the Medicare hospital insurance fund will be insolvent by 2025. But a telling report published in the National Review claims the hospital part of Medicare lost $128.7 billion between 2008 and 2014.
Because Medicare’s insolvency is a few years away doesn’t give license to keep going in the same direction. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation reveals only 58% of Medicare’s costs will be covered by payroll taxes in 2017 and the rest will come out of the general fund. This is why Federal income tax revenues shot up from $2.4 trillion to $3.2 trillion in recent years.
A financial death-cross looms as people live longer and the number of Social Security checks they receive over their lifetime increases. God only knows how the country remains solvent in such a situation.
There is a lot of venture capital to burn before the cash in these new ventures is burned up. Despite a decade of advancements in the knowledge bank of aging, Harvard geneticist George Church is quoted to say in The New Yorker that: “it is immensely difficult to identify longevity genes.” This suggests a long R&D road ahead. So don’t hold your breath for an elixir that will make you look young again any time soon.
Having delved into the answers to these questions for over a decade, my investigation determined that the scientific literature is not ambiguous. Even though there are many theories of aging (oxidation, wear and tear, hormonal, mitochondrial, telomere shortening, immunological), it is clear that the accumulation of minerals after full childhood growth is achieved in males or cessation of menstruation in females explains why humans age at three different speeds.
This has all been irrefutably explained in my hypothesis The Overmineralization Theory of Aging. It is the accumulation of minerals that activates oxidation, induces shortening of telomeres, alters hormones, impairs cellular energy in the mitochondria and switches longevity genes on or off (called gene expression and silencing).
The research community continues to hem and haw about this theory and that, overdosing animals with various small molecules like resveratrol from grapes, curcumin from turmeric spice, catechin from green tea, to misleadingly claim they don’t significantly prolong the life of laboratory animals.
Burying existing science
Yet with all of the increased body of knowledge and working understanding of it, researchers maintain questions like “What causes aging?” and “How can we stop it?” remain unanswered.
Yet science has already answered those questions. Anti-aging researchers are now running in circles, afraid to concede their scheme to make everything into a patentable drug is a dead-end.
Here is another axiom: any economical antidote for aging will be shunned in place of high-yield technologies.
That is precisely what happened to Longevinex®, a nutraceutical company that was the first to undergo animal testing to see how well it switched longevity genes.
In 2008 researchers took three groups of laboratory mice and gave them a calorie-restricted diet, a normal diet + resveratrol or a normal diet + Longevinex®. A global gene array was conducted. The results were striking but never saw the light of day in the news press.
- Genes differentiated by calorie restriction (CR): 198 (831 if calorie restricted over a 3-year lifetime)
- Genes differentiated by resveratrol: 225
- Genes differentiated by Longevinex®: 1711
The Longevinex® matrix of nutraceuticals not only activated 9-fold more genes than resveratrol or a calorie restricted diet over the short term but it differentiated (expressed or silenced) 82% of the genes (677 of 831) activated by life-long CR.
Epigenetically this is the closest thing to a molecular mimic of CR that has been tested to date. If this effect can be achieved in humans, they wouldn’t have to wait a lifetime for its full effect like with CR.
The Longevinex® pill has achieved more scientifically than the billionaires at Google have achieved to date.
But Longevinex® doesn’t have any oligarchs backing it. It is not part of the elite club that is creating a lot of ink for news outlets. In fact, oligarchs own the news media.
In ancient Egypt workers toiled to build pyramids to house the bodies of kings and queens who would be carried to the after-life in ornate sarcophagi. The pyramid builders and the remaining masses were left behind. Not much as changed since then.
Disclosure: Bill Sardi is managing partner for Longevinex®, a nutraceutical company based in Las Vegas, Nevada.