I've had discussions about this article off-list with Max and
Damien, but since Brian saw fit to post the article on-list
I feel it is necessary to respond to correct any incorrect
memes that may be circulating as a result.
[Brian -- In the future before you copy an article to a list that
mentions an Extropian -- you *might* want to check with any mentioned
extropians to determine *whether* or *not* the comments are accurate!
At a fundamental level -- are you verifying your sources or are you
propagating religious "hear-say"?]
> Scientists generally agree that human life can be extended, but are
> divided about how much. Optimists hope a breakthrough in the next
> 30 years will extend human life to 150 years or more, but
> conservatives believe life will be extended slowly, as a side
> effect of regenerative drugs.
Actually, there is little agreement that the lifespan can be
extended within the people qualified to discuss this. The
recent bet between Steve Austad and S. Jay Olshansky (mentioned
in The Scientist) points this out (though they are two of the
optimists who are debating on whether the extension can be to 130
or 150 years). Anyone who is well informed in this area knows
the answers *are NOT* in "regenerative drugs". (But since
investment bankers see the word "drugs" and read it as "$$$"
this is what gets discussed.)
> Steve Jurvetson, a partner at the venture-capital firm Draper
> Fisher Jurvetson, is scouting out ways to get into the field. He
> believes that within 30 years, people will live 120 to 140 years.
Steve has seen a copy of my current business plan which speaks to
some of the advanced biotechnologies related to pro-longevity therapies.
This quote is before he read the plan and I suspect he would
view the longevity numbers now as even higher.
> Ellison has shown a lifelong fascination with science and age.
Larry has a strong interest in science yes. He has a strong
physics background and spent a summer vacation "doing" molecular
biology research. I believe that I most probably played a catalytic
role in his interest in aging research. During the years of 1982-1987
when I had the greatest contact with him, he never expressed an interest in
"aging" per se, so this comment would seem to be "reporting" spin-doctoring.
> Later, Robert Miner, co-founder of Oracle, also died of cancer at
> 52. Ellison pretended Miner didn't have cancer or wouldn't have it
> for long, according to those close to him.
This is completely incorrect. The information that I have indicates
that both Larry and Bob were investing in companies that
were doing cancer drug research that could have saved Bob.
So they were both doing what they could to try and address Bob's
situation. Though I do not remember the exact dates, it was
probably sometime between late 1996 to mid 1997, I did propose
to Bob that he should take a serious look at cryonics. He
discussed it with me but rejected the idea because he did not
want his family to live their lives for many years not knowing
whether he was alive or dead (an interesting response and quite
valid from my perspective).
> One was Aeiveos ... founded by Robert Bradbury ...
Another interesting case of the reporter getting it incorrect.
Aeiveos Corporation was founded by myself in 1992 and never
received any funding from Larry. It was the joint partnership
between Aeiveos Corporation and Tako Ventures -- known
as "Aeiveos Sciences Group" that was supported indirectly
by Larry. During most of its operational lifetime (~86%)
I had appointment authority for the majority of the ASG board.
The termination of the AC/ASG partnership was initiated by myself.
> But soon it became clear that without a basic scientific
> breakthrough, profits were elusive, observers said.
It was not so much that "profits were elusive", but that the
business plan was intentionally designed for an investor
such as Larry that could fund a long term research effort
that *was not* designed to produce profits in the normal
time period investors require. In late 1997 Tako choose
not to continue investing in Aeiveos Sciences Group.
Subsequently the Ellison Medical Foundation was formed
to fund aging research similar to that which ASG had
previously been conducting. The rational for this remains
a mystery to me.
> ``I find it intriguing,'' said Johnson, the scientist, ``that Larry
> Ellison was bankrolling them, but unlike his astuteness in running
> computer engineering, he ignored people who knew what was going on
> in the field he was funding.''
Precisely. People working in the field of aging research
and interventions have only made serious progress in the
last 3-4 years out of the last century. The business plan
that ASG had was extremely aggressive in its approach and
the Scientific Advisory Board did include leading researchers in
the field of aging (e.g. Jan Vijg, George Martin, Steve Austad
and others). Tom's comments are presumably motivated by the fact that
around the time that I decided to terminate the connection between AC
and ASG, he was seeking access to Larry for funding for his work.
So I read this as "sour grapes".
> Ellison put Lederberg on the board, and recruited another big
> player: Richard Sprott, former director of the Biology of Aging
> program at the National Institute of Aging.
> Sprott said Ellison is ``hands-on'' in funding decisions. But some
> say Lederberg and Sprott have reined him in.
Sprott is an "on-public-record" deathist. From the limited contact
I've had with Joshua Lederberg, I would say he as well has mixed
feelings with regard to lifespan extension. So it isn't surprising
that they have "reined Larry in".
So the advisors for the EMF would seem to have perspectives
that are somewhat at odds with Larry's. While you can
count on Larry pushing the envelope, he will at the same time
balance that with more conservative influences so he doesn't
appear "too" far off the wall.
As far as how one should view efforts by people "committed" to
anti-aging research -- the article mentions that Larry is investing
$45 million per year (only 45% of which is for anti-aging research).
Please do not think that the following comment discounts that
investment -- from the public disclosures that I have
seen those investments seem to be well made. However, it is
worth bearing in mind that Larry's funding is around 5% of the
National Institute of Aging annual budget. To represent an investment
comparable to my previous investments (on a net worth basis) he would
have to invest an *order of magnitude* more than tha NIA in anti-aging
research for the next decade. The only individual I know who may
have exceeded this level of personal commitment is Saul Kent.
It is also worth noting that a level of funding that high would
probably *not* accelerate anti-aging research in proportion to
the amount of money being spent. There are simply not enough
researchers who are really educated in the arena of aging and
age-related pathologies that you could cost-effectively spend
several billion dollars annually. That is something that requires
a commitment to work ourselves up to over 3-5 years. It is the
concept that you have to "begin by being there" (i.e. that lifespan
extension *is* possible) that leads to increases in funding, that
leads to more young people educating themselves in an area, that
leads to more scientific progress and interventions. If I have
stood on the edge of the cliff and fallen off it so that many
others will walk up to and explore its edge, then I have provided
a service to humanity. May the future make it so.
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