Clash of the Titans: high stakes debate on how to defeat aging

Two titans of aging research – Aubrey de Grey and Peter Fedichev – set to take to the floor in landmark debate.

Longevity is a fast-moving field with new research and theories being generated all the time; one of the polarizing questions is whether aging can actually be reversed, and the answer matters, not just so we can satisfy our philosophical or intellectual curiosity, but so we can direct funding and effort in the most promising direction.

To that end, the Foresight Institute in San Francisco is set to play host to a debate that aims to answer that question – what is the best way to defeat aging? Is aging irreversible, meaning we should be looking at ways to slow or stop it, or can it be reversed through rejuvenation? May 27th could be the day we find out (17:00 PT / 20:00 ET).

Stepping up to argue each view point are distinguished scientists Peter Fedichev and Aubrey de Grey; while both are proponents of radical life extension with biotechnology, they hold opposing views about how that extension can be achieved. And more than ideas are at stake – the debate is also a contest with a grand prize of US$10,000 for the winner, as determined by jury, to be used to advance his research.

The debate will discuss the feasibility of these approaches – slowing aging vs reversing aging – in light of recent scientific advancements and growing clinical evidence, aiming to determine which method can deliver clinical therapeutics that can significantly extend human life within the next 10 years.

Longevity.Technology: De Grey is a leading proponent of the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), and his premise is that aging is a disease that can be treated and potentially cured, just like any other ailment, and that longevity science should aim to repair and rejuvenate the human body at the cellular and molecular level by targeting age-related damage. Fedichev’s research, on the other hand, which is rooted in complex systems physics, has led him to link aging in humans with the inevitable accumulation of irreversible damage, akin to an increase in entropy. This theory suggests that while we may not be able to completely reverse aging using near-term technologies, we can potentially develop interventions to slow down or even halt the accumulation of damage, thereby significantly extending healthy lifespan.

Seeing these two accomplished scientists unpick and discuss these theories will make for compelling viewing – it is set to be a pivotal event, and the robust exploration of the science will only help to drive research forward. Make sure you tune in!

To attend in person sign up here.
Watch the live YouTube broadcast here.

The Jury evaluating the debate is:

Professor David Furman (Buck Institute/Stanford University)
Professor Dorota Skowronska-Krawczyk (UCI)
Professor Guo Huang (UCSF)
Professor Thomas Stoeger (Northwestern University)
Professor Matthew Yousefzadeh (Columbia University)

Dr de Grey, who is President and CSO of Longevity Escape Velocity Foundation, told Longevity.Technology that the forthcoming debate was sparked by a conversation he had with Dr Fedichev at Zuzalu.

“Peter and I had a long and highly enjoyable impromptu debate a year ago, which attracted a large spontaneous audience, so I’m delighted that Foresight have decided to give us a more formal stage,” he told us. “Our main goal will be to evaluate, and determine how future studies could let us better evaluate, a highly provocative claim that Peter made a year or so ago: that some of the types of damage whose accumulation drives late-life decline in health are inherently incapable (or very nearly so) of being repaired. Our main challenge will be in discussing this quite technical topic without losing the audience, but we both really want to help everyone to understand what’s going on at the cutting edge of the field, so we’ll do our best!”

CEO and Cofounder of Gero Dr Fedichev told us he is excited to be bringing these conversations to a wider audience.

“There is a lot of excitement in the field of longevity research due to successful experiments leading to rejuvenation in mice,” he told us. “However, our studies point to fundamental differences between aging in mice and humans, suggesting that aging in humans is mostly stochastic and therefore rejuvenation strategies will have their limits – aging in humans is mostly thermodynamically irreversible. We’ve had several discussions with Aubrey de Grey about these findings, generating significant interest. I’ve enjoyed our discussions so far and now am looking forward to engaging in public conversations, as a better understanding of aging is crucial for achieving meaningful life extension.”

Open Longevity is contributing organisational support to the debate. Misha Batin, Open Longevity’s Founder and CEO told Longevity.Technology the debate is not only the most important event in longevity in 2024, but one of the most crucial conversations in the field to date.

“The Nobel Prizes, most of the hype and investment, and humanity’s hopes for radical life extension currently revolve around rejuvenation, and Aubrey de Grey is a staunch advocate for achieving radical life extension through a comprehensive system of rejuvenation,” he said. “On the other hand, Peter Fedichev, while recognizing the value of rejuvenation, makes a strong case about its limitations for humans, suggesting it might offer only around 10-15 additional years of lifespan at best. If Dr Fedichev is correct, the last thing we want is to lose a decade or two before this realization becomes widespread.”

Batin makes the point that for many years, numerous aging theories have peacefully coexisted, with their proponents publishing papers, receiving grants, starting companies, and being cordial to one another.

“We now find ourselves in a postmodern situation where almost everyone in gerontology refrains from directly critiquing other approaches. The field and humanity are losing out because of this. We need open debate to address critical questions, set trends for future research, and develop effective therapies.

“Time is ticking, and we won’t be the last generation to die from aging if we all go in the wrong direction.”

To attend in person, sign up here.
Watch the live YouTube broadcast here.