Craig Venter is teaming up Dr. Robert Hariri, who once worked directing cell therapy operations at Celgene, a biopharmaceutical company, and engineer Dr. Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X Prize Foundation. Karen Nelson, who headed the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), will lead the microbiome team. They launched a new company called Human Longevity Inc.
Studies — including projects at JCVI — have shown the bacteria, fungi and other creatures living in and on the human body affect diseases from cancer to eczema and dandruff. Hariri says their byproducts may also affect how well we age. “If you eliminate these various diseases, you eliminate the things contributing to unhealthy aging,” Hariri said.
“We believe the key to … make 100 the new 60, is something well within our grasp.”
Stem cells, the body’s master cells, secrete compounds that affect tissues and may be able to turn back the clock on some diseases associated with aging, he added.
It’s just a good time to tackle these kinds of projects, said Diamandis. The science is there, for one. “There is also this explosion of massive computational power,” said Diamandis, whose first X Prize challenge offered $10 million in 1996 to inspire commercial space ventures. (Burt Rutan won in 2004 with SpaceShipOne, a piloted rocket plane.)
“The time for creating extended high-performing humans genetically is now. We believe the key to … make 100 the new 60, is something well within our grasp.”
The new company doesn’t aim to extend human life so much as to help keep people healthy as they get older.
“The challenge is when you live into your 80s, 90s, to 100, living in a way that is decrepit and old is of zero value,” Diamandis said.
So, the goal is to battle all the diseases of aging, Venter said.