It’s 7.23pm. I’m talking to Jason Hope, a philanthropist, with Aubrey de Grey, whilst Mike Kope, our CEO, prepares backstage at the Palace of Fine Arts. I know what time it is because I’m glancing at my watch, as surreptitiously as possible. In 7 minutes the show begins, but I think we’re going to be able to announce a major donation. If we can finalize some details and I can get backstage to edit our speech.
It’s 7.27pm. I’m past security and working with Mike, adding scribbled notes between the lines of double-spaced text.
It’s around 8.30pm. I’m not sure exactly: I’m not looking at my watch any more. Mike just set out the Foundation’s mission with the greatest clarity I’ve ever heard, and I’m standing in the line for sushi with Jason, talking about the applause that filled the room when we announced his $500,000 donation.
This all happened last night at an event called Breakthrough Philanthropy, hosted by the Thiel Foundation, in San Francisco. The invitation described it as, An Illuminating Evening showcasing 8 non-profit organizations that are using technology in audacious and fascinating ways to benefit humanity. SENS Foundation was one of the eight organizations, and I attended the event with Mike Kope, SENS Foundation CEO, Aubrey de Grey, our CSO, and Tanya Jones, our Research Operations Manager. The remaining seven were: the Foresight Institute, Humanity+, the Santa Fe Institute, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Singularity University, The Seasteading Institute and the X Prize Foundation.
Each of the organizations gave a four minute talk about its work, with a closing address by Peter Thiel. I’m quite sure their respective websites will provide information about those talks, and the Thiel Foundation will be providing more media over the coming week, so I shan’t overburden you with further descriptions. The more perspicacious readers may already have intuited the highlight of the evening, from my perspective, but the entire event was wonderfully organized and highly worthwhile. Credit and thanks for that have to go to the teams at the Thiel Foundation and The Seasteading Institute, who made it happen.
You can read the press release covering the donation, here. I also thought that you might like to read the text of Mike’s speech. (I’ll add links to the video when it becomes available.) But before that, I’d like to thank Jason Hope again, for his support for SENS Foundation.
Good evening. A man by the name of Frank Fenner died two weeks ago. He was 95 years old. Professor Fenner was at one time the Chairman of a W.H.O. Global Commission, and thirty years ago this Spring he was the man who had the honor of declaring that smallpox had been eradicated from the planet.
It was 25 years before that when Dr. Thomas Francis stood up at the University of Michigan to announce that the Salk polio vaccine was “safe, effective and potent.” Just to remind you of the impact of that – Voice of America reported that day that church bells were ringing across the country before he left the podium.
We’ve gotten very good at conquering infectious diseases. None of you will suffer from polio, or smallpox, or, likely, measles or diptheria. But the truth is, we haven’t extended that kind of success to the problems of aging. You will know someone suffering from cancer, from Alzheimer’s, from Parkinson’s disease. We haven’t yet eradicated a single, major age-related disease. This is despite great advances in therapeutics, despite trillions in research underway around the globe, and despite the brightest minds working in an entire, thirty year long biotech revolution.
Ten years ago, our CSO Aubrey de Grey first suggested … a slightly different revolution. His core idea was a damage repair model called SENS, and a recognition of a simple problem: when medical science focuses upon disease – when we wait for disease to develop – then what we learn is how to chase the pathology – and we haven’t gotten very good at that. But if we look instead at the damage building up as a result of the normal metabolism of being alive, then we can learn to repair that damage before those deadly pathologies develop.
That’s it; that’s all that SENS means: it’s a model that steps away from the expensive and tangled ‘pathology chase’ and focuses instead upon identifying, addressing and removing the damage that is building up inside you; the damage that will eventually cause disease.
It’s a simple statement, but it suggests a complex task. For this revolution to succeed we need to move this way of thinking into the mainstream of medicine. We need to create a new biotech industry. That’s why we created SENS Foundation: to be a credible catalyst for change; to be a public research and outreach organization devoted to the creation of a new field, rejuvenation biotechnology.
The groundwork has been laid. Peter Thiel and other early supporters allowed a handful of visionary researchers to take the first steps in this field a few short years ago. They are now being joined by an increasing number of individuals who believe in the Foundation and its mission.
And, because of that, 2010 has been a big year for us. We’ve expanded our research center in Mountain View. We’ve added new research programs, and we’ve added several new collaborating institutions. Our lysosomal research program, especially, has made great progress in addressing macular degeneration and heart disease. Our Academic Initiative is growing the next generation of researchers. All of these activities are generating quality, peer-reviewed publications.
2011 promises to be bigger still. We have everything in place for ten further important projects, and, if we are successful in fundraising, by mid-2011 we’ll be pursuing at least one research program in every currently recognized category of metabolic damage. What we’re most proud of, though, is that our projects are capturing the imaginations of top tier collaborators in biotech and regenerative medicine. Discussions are underway for a center of excellence at Cambridge University, and at last month’s TEDMED conference, in a joint statement with Wake Forest University, we announced a collaboration with their world-renowned Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
And just before I came on stage, I was told that I could announce that one of the philanthropists who we invited tonight, Jason Hope, has offered a half a million dollars to support these programs. Thank you Jason.
We are attracting serious attention from the mainstream medical science community – and that’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve.
A man by the name of Frank Fenner died two weeks ago. He was only 95 years old. Medicine hasn’t eradicated a single, major age-related disease … yet … . You can help SENS Foundation change that. Thank you.
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