AGING/A4M update

Robert J. Bradbury (
Mon, 13 Dec 1999 23:38 PST

I thought I'd give everyone a heads up on the A4M conference.

The conference was very well attended, I'd say over 1000 people. A4M itself claims to be up around 8000 members at this point.

I presented an enhanced version of the Genomes, Biobots & Nanobots talk that I gave at Extro4. The high points were the scattered applause that broke out when I pointed out that, if these technologies were fully implemented, the average lifespan given the Y2K accident rate would be 2000+ years and the fact that people were bolting from the room to get to the Alcor booth to purchase their copies of Nanomedicine. The 20 copies that Alcor brought flew off the table and people were fighting over purchasing the last copy. Over 40 back-orders were submitted meaning that something like 6-7% of the participants purchased a copy (and this is primarily a population of conservative MDs)! Ralph Merkle followed up with his talk on Nanotech/Nanomed so they got a double whammy of what is coming down the road.

The downside of the conference with the continued emphasis on zillions of vitamin formulations and a handful of therapies that could best be described as ultra-"alternative".

The highlight of the conference, IMO, was the awarding of the "Infinity" award to Dr. Folkman from Harvard for his work in the development of angiogenesis inhibitors (angiostatin, endostatin, etc.) Dr. Folkman provided a highly educational and entertaining lecture on the history & development of these drugs (which can be ordered on audio/video from the A4M). There are 19 companies with drugs of this kind in clinical trials. The slides he showed indicate that these drugs *work*! I was very impressed by the data (and you know how difficult it is to impress me)!

Currently it is difficult to get access to these drugs unless you are in a clinical trial, but physicians can prescribe Interferon alpha/beta which is a weak angiogenesis inhibitor on an "off label" basis.

He also explained some of the problems that occured with the failure to reproduce the results of this work. Apparently these proteins are shipped around the country in plastic vials on dry ice (this is standard biotech shipping procedures). It turns out that CO2 can penetrate these vials, cause a lowering of the pH that results in protein unfolding, making the proteins defective. (This was discovered by shipping endostatin out FedEx from Boston to Georgia and back.) Now that they have a solution to that problem, trials are going much better.

I would *highly* recomend anyone who knows anyone with cancer suggest they investigate these drugs & trials. I would bet that Dr. Folkman will win a Nobel Prize for his work in this field.

If the trials work out, it will be interesting because I am guessing that when Geron produces a telomerase inhibitor it could well be a "ho-hummm" in the market if these drugs are out first. Its good from our perspective, because it means we have now have a bi-modal approach to the Hayflick Limit and cells that have broken through it. You give people gene therapy with telomerase to promote cell division in cells that have stopped due to telomere loss (such as endothelial cells), then inhibit the development of any large tumors with the angiogenesis inhibitors. Previously I was always uncomfortable with telomerase because giving them telomerase would seem to be a necessary, but tumor promoting approach that would have to be followed by giving them a telomerase inhibitor to block any cancer that was started or accelerated. Now we have a way around that.