Interviews of 2023: the longevity visionaries

Six of our favourite interviews with thought leaders and researchers on the opportunity presented by longevity.

From pop-up cities and the singularity, to how greater investment can help “cure” aging, this year we heard from a host of thought leaders who shared their views on how to move the longevity field forward. Today we bring you six of the best.

Andrew Steele: Curing aging is a question of investment, not time

Andrew Steele: Curing aging is a question of investment, not time

Ahead of September’s Longevity Investors Conference, we spoke to scientist, writer and presenter Dr Andrew Steele, ahead of his presentation to conference delegates about the role investors can play in “curing aging.” The author of the best-selling book Ageless told us that longevity represents a huge “human opportunity” for investors.

“When you think about treating aging, what we’re really talking about is treating this whole range of different diseases – cancer, heart disease, stroke dementia – all of these things are caused by the aging process,” he said. “So, there’s a huge opportunity to make a big difference in the world.”

Mahdi Moqri: Seeking consensus on the biomarkers of aging

Seeking consensus on the biomarkers of aging

This year saw the launch of the Biomarkers of Aging Consortium, which is on a mission to develop, validate and implement biomarkers of aging and longevity. Formed of a diverse group of academic and industry members, the consortium represents a significant and vital step forward for the longevity field – creating a future where interventions can be properly evaluated for their longevity potential.

We caught up with the head of the consortium, Stanford and Harvard researcher, Dr Mahdi Moqri, who told us, “Our translational and clinical colleagues have started to use [some] biomarkers in pre-clinical and clinical studies as they could offer powerful tools to identify and evaluate longevity interventions. But these biomarkers are not yet tailored for the use in clinical settings as many open challenges still need to be addressed.”

David Wood: Will we reach the singularity by 2035?

Will we reach the singularity by 2035 Cr: David Wood_HERO IMAGE

Human longevity and the singularity are inherently linked. So-called ‘singularitarians’ believe one of the possible consequences of the singularity will be massive advancements in medicine and technology that will protect us from the effects of aging. But not all visions of the singularity are positive. Last January we spoke to the futurist Dr David Wood about his hopes that the singularity will benefit humanity – rather than the alternative.

Wood, who believes that artificial general intelligence (AGI) will speed up progress in longevity science, told us, “This acceleration could help us undo the damage of aging and give us back a more youthful state of health and vitality. This may also result in the longevity escape velocity, in which we have not just slightly increased lifespans, but every year that we live, we will add more than 12 months of healthy life expectancy.”

Laurence Ion: Zuzalu is a pop-up city with longevity at its heart

Zuzalu: a pop-up city with longevity at its heart
Photograph: Elizaveta Galitckaia/Shutterstock

This summer, the mysterious town of Zuzalu became a “first-of-its-kind pop-up city community” – a two-month experiment bringing together likeminded individuals with a common interest in living longer and healthier lives and building self-sustaining communities. The brainchild of Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, Zuzalu hosted a variety of events on topics like synthetic biology, technology for privacy, public goods, governance, and, of course, longevity.

The longevity component of the Zuzalu experiment was supported by the longevity-focused decentralized organization VitaDAO. We spoke to VitaDAO’s head of deal flow Laurence Ion, who told us, “We’re learning together – bringing bright minds together, to see what happens from there. It’s like a university campus with a 10% course load. Just walking around, you end up having these awesome conversations combining longevity, network states, crypto and so on.”

Lee Hood & Eric Verdin: The biggest revolution in the history of medicine

In September, the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and Phenome Health joined forces in a strategic partnership aiming to accelerate the translation of aging science into clinical practice. The result is the formation of the new Center for Phenomic Health at the Buck, where the two organizations will work together to advance healthspan for all.

We caught up with Phenome founder and genomics pioneer Dr Lee Hood and Buck CEO Dr Eric Verdin, who told us, “We believe combining the novel computational and human characterization engine of Phenome Health with the Buck’s expertise in geroscience, the biology of aging, has the power to redefine how we age and treat – or prevent altogether – the chronic diseases of aging.”

Matt Kaeberlein: Does rapamycin extend lifespan in dogs?

Does rapamycin extend lifespan in dogs? It’s time to find out. // Dog aging project update interview

The Test of Rapamycin in Aging Dogs (TRIAD) aims to conclusively show whether the drug, an mTOR inhibitor that has been shown to increase lifespan in mice, has a similar effect in dogs. While the study also aims to learn if rapamycin improves heart health, mobility and cognitive function, its primary goal is to determine its effect on lifespan – leading some to dub it the first “true” clinical trial for longevity.

In October, we spoke with TRIAD co-founder Dr Matt Kaeberlein, who told us, “About 10 years ago, I became convinced that some of these geroscience interventions that work in mice, will also work in dogs – I have no doubt about that. I don’t know if it’ll be percentagewise the same, but the biology is so shared that there is no way I can imagine it not happening. And rapamycin is our best shot on goal right now.”

Kaeberlein has since posted that the National Institute on Aging has “inexplicably” chosen to withdraw support for the Dog Aging Project and called on supporters to sign a petition against the decision.