‘There is a need for academic education in the longevity field’

The GCLS Executive Master in Longevity Science explores aging from biological, financial and societal angles.

Last month, we reported on the launch of The Geneva College of Longevity Science (GCLS), the first higher education institution dedicated solely to longevity science. Situated in Geneva, the college prides itself on Swiss academic standards, emphasizing scientific rigor and practical relevance. Its programs are designed to not only impart knowledge but also equip students with the skills necessary to tackle real-world scientific challenges; it is a holistic approach that aims to ensure its graduates are not only well-versed in theoretical concepts, but are also prepared to apply their learning in practical settings.

Longevity.Technology: GCLS offers an Executive Master of Science in Longevity (EMSc Longevity), a distance learning program designed for professionals. With a curriculum covering the latest scientific findings on aging, health and longevity, the program aims to deepen knowledge and enhance credibility in the field. Designed both for practitioners seeking to improve longevity interventions and for financial and policy decision-makers who need longevity expertise for informed decisions, the online delivery allows students to balance their studies with their professional careers.

We sat down with Dominik Thor to discuss how this program addresses the biological mechanisms of aging, the various types of interventions, and the societal and financial implications of increased longevity.

Dominik Thor on…

Getting started

When I started out getting in touch with longevity science, 12 years ago or so, like newcomer to a field, I was looking for information – back then, there weren’t as many books, platforms and then Internet web pages on the subject. Now, there some very good resources out there, but in terms of academic education, the options that we have are limited. Of course, there are courses for medical doctors and so on, but if you don’t have the life science background, I think you are very limited and there is definitely a need for academic education in this field – I hope we can play our part in that.

Not just doctors…

There is great interest from medical doctors who want to expand their various fields; very often it is experts in internal medicine that are jumping on the train longevity, and so they are seeking further education, which is excellent. We need good doctors to get us in shape and help us protect our health, but at the same time, I think we need a lot of decision makers in other areas also to get educated about longevity, because ultimately, this is a field that really profits from more awareness and more investment, so we also want to educate financial analysts. We want to enable them to have the ability to back the right projects because it’s really difficult to assess early stage biotech companies through financial numbers alone. Then, of course, policymakers are shaping the health care system wherever you live, and it’s also very important to give them a better understanding of longevity science. This is why we founded GCLS – to really give an educational platform to all these people and not to restrict that knowledge to just one group of people.

A broad curriculum

Longevity science is a mix of so many scientific disciplines and it affects so many areas of our life that we felt the need to reflect that in our curriculum. We don’t know exactly what prior knowledge people have when they go into the program, so we start by educating them about the basic biology of aging, before moving into more complex areas, looking at what science can do today and towards future applications. A lot of the interesting stuff that is happening has great potential, but of course, it’s still at a very early stage, so it’s important to ensure people understand what are the interventions and therapies we can do now, and which are the areas where we see tons of potential and great new technologies being developed. I don’t like the term snake oil, but we’ve seen so many things out there that sound incredible, I think, to average consumers, and people need to have a certain level of understanding to be able to differentiate between what’s way out there and what works – what could be potentially good for you and what is just gibberish. It is important to cover all of these different aspects.

We have the help of various experts, from post-medical professionals who can advise on the practical application of findings to scientists that work on a cellular level in animal studies. We even have some experts more geared towards the psychological aspects or policy aspects of longevity, because it’s really important that we don’t limit ourselves to just the biological education. I think there are many other aspects of longevity that are important to us; how well people age in blue zones, for example, shows how important social interaction is for longevity.