Dr. George Church as the newest member of SENS Research Foundation’s Research Advisory Board. Our RAB plays a key role in our mission to change the way the world researches and treats age-related disease. By applying expertise from multiple relevant areas, the Board assures that efforts and resources are directed along the most promising avenues.
Dr. Church brings relevant expertise in a number of fields, genetics in particular. He is Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Director of PersonalGenomes.org, in addition to being the author of the book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves. His 1984 Harvard PhD included the first methods for direct genome sequencing, molecular multiplexing & barcoding, which led to the first commercial genome sequence in 1994.
His innovations in “next generation” genome sequencing and synthesis & cell/tissue engineering resulted in 12 companies spanning fields including medical genomics and synthetic biology as well as new privacy, biosafety & biosecurity policies. He is director of the NIH Center for Excellence in Genomic Science, and his honors include election to NAS & NAE and Franklin Bower Laureate for Achievement in Science.
SENS is trying to fix the damage of aging
Two thirds of all deaths worldwide, and about 90% of all deaths in the developed world, are from causes that only rarely kill young adults. These causes include Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes and most cancers. They are age-related because they are expressions of the later stages of aging, occurring when the molecular and cellular damage that has accumulated in the body throughout life exceeds the level that metabolism can tolerate. Moreover, before it kills them, aging imposes on most elderly people a long period of debilitation and disease. For these reasons, aging is unarguably the most prevalent medically-relevant phenomenon in the modern world and the primary ultimate target of biomedical research.
Regenerative medicine can be defined as the restoration of an individual’s molecular, cellular and/or tissue structure to broadly the state it was in before it experienced damage or degeneration. Aging is a degenerative process, so in theory it can be treated by regenerative medicine, thereby postponing the entire spectrum of age-related frailty and disease. But in practice, could regenerative medicine substantially postpone aging any time soon? If so, it will do so via the combined application of many distinct regenerative therapies, since aging affects the body in so many ways. Recent biotechnological progress indicates that many aspects of aging may indeed be effectively treatable by regenerative medicine in the foreseeable future. We cannot yet know whether all aspects will be, but extensive scrutiny has failed to identify any definite exceptions. Therefore, at this point there is a significant chance that such therapies would postpone age-related decline by several years, if not more, which constitutes a clear case for allocating significant resources to the attempt to develop those therapies.
Unfortunately, the regenerative medicine approach to combating aging is not yet being adequately pursued by major funding bodies: only a small number of laboratories worldwide are funded (either publicly or privately) to develop therapies that could rejuvenate aged but otherwise undamaged tissues. SRF has risen to the challenge of filling this void in the biomedical research funding arena. Research is chosen for funding on the basis of the following major criteria:
It is demonstrably relevant to the development of regenerative medicine targeting some aspect of aging.
It is poorly funded by other sources.
Funding from other sources seems unlikely to be forthcoming in the near future.
As and when it is developed, this panel of therapies may provide many years, even decades, of additional youthful life to countless millions of people. Those extra years will be free of all age-related diseases, as well as the frailty and susceptibility to infections and falls that the elderly also experience. The alleviation of suffering that will result, and the resulting economic benefits of maintained productivity of the population, are almost incalculable. In our capacity as the overseers of SRF’s research strategy, we urge you to do all you can to help SENS Research Foundation carry out this mission with maximum speed.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.