How the World Defeats Aging by 2035 – Aubrey de Grey Interview

Aubrey de Grey has been the leading voice for antiaging, aging reversal and aging damage repair for over twenty years. He founded the SENS non-profit (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS). There have been six antiaging companies that have been directly spun out of SENS. SENS is researching the hardest problems related to fixing aging damage.

Repairing damage in five of the areas of aging are now highly active areas of biotech research.

SENS has helped fund lab work to show that mitochondrial mutations and loss of elasticity in the extracellular matrix can be repaired. SENS is now helping to pioneer combination antiaging therapies.

Brian Wang of Nextbigfuture Interviewed Aubrey dr Grey recently to discuss how we can reach a world where aging is under medically control by 2035.

Q: There was a recent tweet where you said

Why do you have this level of confidence and how could things play out in the 50% chance scenario where very effective antiaging treatments are developed and distributed to everyone in the world?

Activating an accelerated global antiaging program would require three dominos to fall:
1. The scientific community would publicly become very vocal that the goal of aging damage repair is feasible and a massive crash program would be needed to address it.
2. The key groups and people who control national and international policy for scientific and medical programs would drive a major crash program
3. The public would support

I have believed this would be the broad sequence of events for over 20 years.

Recently, we have seen what this would look like with the COVID pandemic. Once the scientific community was convinced that COVID was an urgent medical and public health crisis and that vaccines would be a viable and feasible solution they began lobbying for an accelerated vaccine development program. The vaccines could be developed ten times faster than a non-urgent program. Government policy was streamlined and proponents without and outside moved the funding and changes in policy needed for the program. Public support emerged and was enhanced with public communication. The crash program was brought together quickly.

Operation Warp Speed in the USA, was a private-public partnership to develop vaccines against COVID. This had $18 billion of funding by October 2020. There were similar anti-COVID efforts in most other countries (UK, Russia, China etc..). There have been further billions spent to speed the deployment of vaccines in the USA. This will easily surpass $50 billion in just over one year.

Aging-related or aging-affected diseases have over ten times the effect of COVID and COVID is an aging-affected disease. COVID becomes ten times more deadly for the oldest people.

Global COVID deaths have ranged from 257 to 10,520 deaths per day. Adults 65 and older account for 16% of the US population but 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the US, somewhat higher than their share of deaths from all causes (75%) over the same period. 67-75% of all deaths in the world are from age-related diseases. There are over 150,000 deaths per day from all causes. If aging rejuvenation were achieved then over 100,000 deaths per day could be avoided. The COVID pandemic may see new surges if the virus mutates beyond the current vaccines. The CEO of Pfizer has indicated that this is highly probable that COVID could mutate so that current vaccines would not be effective. This would again put all people and especially older people at risk. Tested and confirmed global COVID cases are over 127 million but total infections are likely over 500 million. Infected animals and people will be into the billions by the end of 2021. Mutated versions of COVID will be a seasonal event like the flu. The flu is also more dangerous for older people.

Q: Is Aging a Disease?

It is a treatable indication.

There are diseases of aging and the FDA has now accepted a definition of aging as an indication.

The TAME (Targeting Aging with Metformin) Trial has been accepted by the FDA. It establishes a clinical trial to provide proof-of-concept that aging can be treated, just as we treat diseases.

Aging is made an indication, the TAME Trial marks a paradigm shift: from treating each age-related medical condition separately, to treating these conditions together, by targeting aging per se.

The FDA is accepting that aging is treatable. The definition and target they have accepted is a somewhat lengthy combinatorial definition. It relates to increased heart conditions and reductions in healthy performance in the body. If those indications and conditions are reversed this would be accepted as a successful reversal of aging.

Is it just devoting money to the problem?

Money by itself is not enough. It is the boldness, ambition and goals of those involved. DHHS Singapore had aging as a target but the work was not making properly targeted until Brian Kennedy was recruited to lead the program.

Q: Is the public stance of respected gerontologists changing?

David Sinclair of Harvard has become vocal that aging can be treated. David is raising $200 million for an entrepreneurial antiaging effort.

Others at the Buck Institute and other leaders in aging research are becoming bolder with their public statements.

What is the status of companies formed to solve aspects of aging and reverse aging damage?

There are over 140 companies that have been formed with mitigating aging and reversing aspects of aging damage. Unity Bio is publicly traded and has a valuation of over $300 million.

The longevity and antiaging industry has several places with excellent industry coverage.

There are several dozen antiaging and longevity treatments in various clinical trials and those are tracked at lifespan.io.

Aging is over Ten times worse than COVID and Aging is worthy of an Operation Warp Speed program to solve it.

Aging-related or aging-affected diseases have over ten times the effect of COVID and COVID is an aging-affected disease. COVID becomes ten times more deadly for the oldest people.

There are treatments that are promising approaches to repairing Aging damage. The Warp Speed for COVID vaccines were approved before it was known if the vaccines would work or how effective they would be.

Aging is defined as an indication and medical target by the FDA.

Making the world safer against future pandemics will involve improving the immune systems of the elderly and this will require antiaging. If we do not improve the immune systems of the elderly then they will remain ten to twenty times more vulnerable to pandemics.

But will Antiaging make overpopulation worse?
Brian Wang has addressed this in great detail and with historical context.

To begin with, overpopulation is not a problem now and will not be a problem even if the population were to instantly double. We throw away the food to feed 2 billion and use what could be food for 500 million and turn it into Ethanol. If we restricted overeating then this would feed another 1-2 billion. We can optimize meat production (instead of 10 tons of grain per 1 ton of beef we could focus on chicken and fish. We can feed farm animals and fish with insect protein. 30% of farm production goes to feed pets and farm animals. Insect feed would be 10 times more efficient.)

Tripling agricultural production from better seeds that are already in test crops from regular breeding. Ten to thirty times the agricultural production from greenhouses. China produces 35% of its vegetable needs from 3% of arable land that has plastic sheeting greenhouses. We can feed twenty times as many people with half of the land. Feeding everyone is trivial now and we have a 70% safety margin. Food production could drop to 30% and we would be ok. In the long run, we can feed twenty times as many people with half of the land.

The world’s population has doubled since 1970 but the chance of someone dying from famine is ten times less than when the world population was half what it is today and twenty times less than when the global population was over four times less than it is today.

Air pollution in terms of particulates in the air was worse from 1900 to the 1950s. The population increased but air pollution decreased in the developed world. China and India are going through a phase of increased air pollution but China is already improving air quality and reducing coal usage.

Let us compare 1740-1880 with 1880 to 2020. From 1740 to 1880 there was no significant increase in global life expectancy. Globally the world life expectancy did not really start increasing until 1880. World life expectancy was at about 30 years and then has increased to 72.6 in 2019.

Cleaning up the water and sewage was critical to increasing life expectancy. This was true in London in 1870-1920 and beyond to the 1950s and 1960s. Los Angeles from 1900-1960s and London in the 1800s-1960s had visibly bad air quality. It is happening now in China and India.

Industrialization made air quality worse but there are funds to build the plumbing and water and air treatment systems. Africa is getting clean water and sanitation systems.

Increasing life expectancy from 30 to 60 goes together with having toilets, plumbing, clean water, and clean air.

The scale of the population issue for the world. 30% increase by 2050, 60%-200% increase by 2100. 100%-400% by 2150. The 30% increase by 2050 is 80% from large family sizes in Africa. The UN mid-range 2100 forecast is for a world population of 11 billion. Almost all of this increase would be in Africa because of larger family sizes. If people lived to an average age of 130 instead of the UN projection of 80 by 2100 then there would be 4 billion more people still here by 2100.

Nations and the world have far more margin for keeping people fed than people realize. The world is NOT just barely getting by. The average person in the US eats 222 lbs of meat. USDA recommends that adults eat 5-6 ounces of protein daily, avg person will eat 10 ounces of meat and poultry each day in 2018. 30-40% of food is wasted in the US. France only wastes 10% of its food, with a simple rule that food must be sold super cheap if nears expiration.

Over 500 million people could be fed from the production of corn that is used for ethanol. Electrified cars would eliminate the need for ethanol.

Food production is increasing by a lot. The productivity of agricultural land will triple by 2030-2040. This is not magic. Dozens of hectares with higher productivity are being grown now. It is just breeding better seeds. China and other nations will scale them up.

Building a lot of greenhouses which can boost productivity by 8-30 times. So we already have 2 to 3 times the food than we really need. The world can drop by 10 times and get by. Food production will go up 3 times within 20 years using business as usual agriculture. There is an option to use greenhouses on a larger scale for 30 times more food.

In 2017, China’s total arable land fell to 134.86 million hectares (2.0 billion mu), a decline of 60,900 hectares compared to the previous year. China had 4 million hectares of greenhouses by 2017. In four years, they added 3 million hectares. This was converting 0.6% each year of the total land in China to plastic-covered greenhouses. The greenhouse-covered land is 8 times the productivity as the same amount of uncovered land. They produce nearly 1 trillion yuan ($145 billion) worth of vegetables each year. Electrifying the air in greenhouses can boost vegetable output by 20 to 30 percent. Pesticide use has decreased 70 to 100 percent. And fertilizer consumption has dropped more than 20 percent.

If 40% of farmland was covered with crude greenhouses then much less would feed 4X as many people. China has proven that greenhouse can be built at scale. 3% of the land with greenhouses produces 35% of China’s vegetables.

This is before the possible success of factory-grown meat. Factory-grown meat is now sold in restaurants. People pay more for the meat at high-end restaurants. It can be made to taste better. Factory-grown meat can boost food productivity by 10X in terms of energy and water.

Centuries-old greenhouse technology is already providing 35% of China’s vegetables. China will take tube Greenhouse buildings at scale more efficiently to provide 60% of its food needs.

If truly effective Antiaging treatments emerged in 2035 and if those treatments could be deployed like a COVID vaccination injection this would start adjusting the world population by at most 30 million people per year. The world has 140 million births each year. A 20% increase in births plus people saved from dying would be less than half of the percentage increase US baby boom increase for the 1950s versus the WW2 period. US birthrates increased by 50-60% for average annual births in a year in the 1950s versus average annual births in the 1940-1945 period. 4.2 million per year versus 2.5-2.7 million.

The old people would have to have aging damage repaired. They would have to seem and be physically young. If people had aging damage repair where they could have annual risk of death kept at the level of a 70-year-old still has 1.5 to 2.5% chance of dying every year. Over ten years, you will still lose 20-30% of those people every decade. Instead of having the escalating risk of dying as they get beyond 70 they are kept at the risk level of a 70-year-old. This does not increase overall longevity much. Someone who is kept at the annual risk of death for a 70-year-old still has 1.5-2.5% chance of dying every year. Over ten years, you will still lose 20-30% of those people.

If people had aging damage repair where they could have annual risk of death kept at the level of a 60-year-old still has a 0.6 to 1.1% chance of dying every year. Over ten years, you will still lose 8-14% of those people. It would be 40 years before half are gone. Life expectancy would be 100 when half of those people are gone.

Someone who is frozen at the annual risk of death for a 50-year-old still has a 0.3 to 0.5% chance of dying every year. Over ten years, you will still lose 4-7% of those people. It would be 90 years before half of those people are gone. Life expectancy would be 140 when half of all people are gone.

Antiaging can only work for aging getting under medical control if people have the damage repaired to youthful levels.

It is becoming ever more reasonable and clear that there are valid scientific approaches to fixing aging damage. It is a goal that would be ten times as beneficial as rapid development of COVID vaccines in terms of annual lives saved. Rejuvenating the immune systems of the aged to prevent future pandemics is a goal that is virtually the same as developing comprehensive aging damage repair.

It would provide economic benefits trillions of dollars would be saved by making the population more resistant to pandemics and all diseases. It would provide economic benefits by making those who are frail strong again and productive again.

It has been worthwhile to save people from COVID. It is worthwhile to save people from aging. It would have been immoral to let people die from COVID when we had the ability to develop the science and vaccines to save them. It would be immoral to let people die from aging when we have the ability to develop the science and medicine to save them. Fixing the planet and saving the people are not goals that are in conflict.

SOURCES- Interview Aubrey de Grey, Wikipedia, longevity.io, longevity technology
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com