XPRIZE Healthspan offers $101m prize for successful longevity therapeutic

Winners will need to demonstrate their longevity therapy can restore muscle, cognition, and immune function by 20 years.

A new global competition that incentivizes the development and testing of therapeutics to improve healthy aging was launched today at the Global Healthspan Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. XPRIZE Healthspan is offering a whopping $101 million in prize money to a team that successfully develops a therapeutic that restores muscle, cognition and immune function by 20 years in older adults. And that’s not all – the winning team must be able to demonstrate the results in a treatment period of one year or less.

Longevity.Technology: For years, many in the field have been calling for clinical trials designed to measure the impact of therapeutics on human longevity, but there are still no regulatory pathways for therapeutics that target biological aging for the purpose of healthspan extension. Today, XPRIZE Healthspan is cutting to the chase – setting longevity companies and researchers alike a clear message: show us that your technology actually works. If all goes well, in seven years’ time we could be toasting a longevity therapy that has been proven to reverse the aging clock by as much as 20 years…

While global life expectancy has more than doubled in the last 100 years, the quality of health as humans age has not increased at the same rate. XPRIZE Healthspan hopes to close this gap between life and health expectancy by incentivizing hundreds of teams around the world to test the hypothesis that, “by targeting aging with a single or combination of therapeutic treatments, it may be possible to restore function lost to age-related degradation of multiple organ systems.”

“Traditional medicine only treats one disease at a time and only once symptoms appear, without effectively extending human health,” said Dr Jamie Justice, executive director of XPRIZE Healthspan. “By developing therapeutics that target biological aging rather than disease, we can revolutionize the way we think about and treat aging. If these trials are successful, we will demonstrate that it is possible to improve health even as we age.”

The goal: restore 20 years of function

The winner of XPRIZE Healthspan will demonstrate that their therapy, in a treatment period of one year or less, restores muscle, cognitive, and immune function by a minimum of 10 years, with a goal of 20 years, in adults aged 65-80 years who are free of major or life-threatening disease and disability.

The final prize amount will be based on the magnitude of functional improvements demonstrated by the winning team. Reversing age-related decline by 10 years will be awarded $61 million, rising to $71 million for 15 years, or $81 million for a reversal of 20 years or more. (The lower amounts will only be paid out if no team achieves results at the higher levels.)

The XPRIZE Healthspan competition will take place over the next seven years with two key judging milestones along the way. The first milestone will occur in two years’ time, where up to 40 of the registered teams will be selected by the judging panel to receive a $250,000 award to support their on-going work. After three to four years, the second milestone will see 10 of the registered teams receive a $1 million award to continue their efforts.

XPRIZE says that the winning idea “can come from anywhere and anyone.” Teams may include companies, non-profits or academic institutions, and can come from any nation or combination of nationalities. Only “government entities” are excluded.

There is no limit to the type of therapeutic treatments, which could include drugs, biologics, gene therapies, devices, nutritional, or lifestyle approaches, whether administered alone or in combination. Safety is, of course, paramount, and XPRIZE says it will expel teams who do not uphold reasonable standards of safety and ethics.

In addition to demonstrating that therapeutic treatments can restore functional ability typically lost during aging, XPRIZE says the competition aims to build consensus on methodologies to measure functional and biological aging.

The largest competition of its kind

Founded by entrepreneur and investor Peter Diamandis, XPRIZE specializes in competitions designed to solve some of the biggest challenges facing humanity. From climate change to space exploration, the organization incentivizes solutions to create a more equitable and abundant future, and XPRIZE Healthspan is its biggest mission yet. With a purse and operations budget of $141 million, XPRIZE claims the seven-year global competition is the largest of its kind in history.

XPRIZE Healthspan launch
Peter H Diamandis, MD, founder and executive chairman of XPRIZE.

“People around the world are living longer, but quality of life has not kept pace,” said Diamandis. “By targeting aging with a single or combination of therapeutic treatments, it may be possible to restore function lost to age-related degradation of multiple organ systems.”

The funding for the prize is led by co-sponsors Hevolution Foundation and Solve FSHD, the charity founded by Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon who is battling the rare form of muscular dystrophy. An additional $10 million bonus prize will be awarded to a team that demonstrates the ability to restore muscular function lost to FSHD in one year or less.

“​​It does not make any sense to have a long lifespan without being healthy,” said Wilson. “I am thrilled with thinking that I can be functionally healthy both mentally and physically until the end. Together, XPRIZE and SOLVE FSHD will enable people to discover global solutions.”

Other backers include Apeiron Investment Group’s Christian Angermayer, Carl B Barney, the Blundy Family, Kas Brodier, Charlie and Lorie Epstein, the Eleanor and Howard Morgan Family Foundation, Dana and Rob Hamwee, Daniel Krizek, Nancy and Howard Marks, Chris Ouwinga, Chrisian Peneff, SeneGence, Todd and Karen Wanek, and Sergey Young.

“I’m seriously excited and honored to be sponsoring XPRIZE Healthspan,” Angermayer told us. “The challenge represents the pinnacle of scientific and technological collaboration. As we stand on the brink of redefining and reimagining health and aging, I’m proud to champion XPRIZE Healthspan – a leap towards a future where each one of us can realize our fullest potential, regardless of age.”

Check out our exclusive interview with the executive director of XPRIZE Healthspan, Dr Jamie Justice.

Photographs courtesy of XPRIZE/Global Healthspan Summit