Skip to main content

A "Seismic Shift" in Longevity Science : Mainstream Acceptance + Large Funding

"You are incredibly prescient!"
  I woke up to those words from a former colleague on Jan. 19, 2022: the bombshell announcement that the Chief Science Officer of pharma giant GSK, where I worked until recently, will become the CEO at the new, $3 BILLION longevity science company Altos (presumably also funded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos.)

Big Pharma is at long last embracing Longevity Science. The corollary: longevity science is entering Mainstream (with capital "M")

But let me backtrack...

The Decade of Longevity Science

When Harvard professor David Sinclair declared the 2020's to be the "decade of the paradigm shift about age reversal", one could perhaps be dismissive of it as just an outburst of enthusiasm...

But in the past couple of years, we're seeing strong evidence that his forecast is right on the mark!

While I worked at GlaxoSmithKline - a giant, top-10, pharma company - I vigorously advocated forming a Longevity Science dept., and spoke to several VP's, senior VP's, and Hal Barron (the Chief Science Officer - yes, the one about to take the helm of Altos) himself a few times.  He was friendly and very accessible, but non-committal... which puzzled me, given his large previous role at Google's longevity company Calico.  I had a feeling he was up to something - something that he just couldn't yet reveal - INDEED!  

Hal Barron, the CSO of mainstream Big Pharma GSK, is now about to become CEO of Altos...

Here is the official news announcement about Altos that earned me the "incredibly prescient" compliment I quoted at the opening.

Rousing the Sleeping Giant

When I first joined GSK, I was astonished - and yet not too surprised - that there wasn't a single mention of Longevity Science anywhere on the company's internal message boards : coming from small pioneering companies in the Longevity fields (in particular, my work at, run by the co-founder of the SENS research foundation), I was very well aware of giant pharma's reputation as "being asleep at the wheel" when it came to Longevity Science...

Nonetheless, I quintuple-checked that indeed there was no group about longevity on GSK's "Workplace" (basically, a professional version of Facebook for internal company use), before starting one myself.  I certainly didn't want to make a fool of myself by starting a group that was already in place! 

On the company's "Workplace" platform, I found all sorts of groups on just about every imaginable subject - even Quantum Computers - but an absolute zero about longevity: "not even the smell of it", as my dad used to say!  I consulted colleagues, management and top management - all the way to Hal Barron (friendly and very approachable, I was happy to discover), and indeed confirmed that no such group was in existence.

So, I started it: "Longevity Science & Business : Healthy Life Extension". 

The group's cover image
I mirrored almost everything I posted there on my LinkedIn and professional Facebook account - with just slight tweaks for the different audience.   For example, about:

By the time I left GSK, the new group had grown to over 1,100 members - and I'm pleased to report that it inspired a number of colleagues, as well as university students considering career paths... and even got the attention of some top execs in the company.

I don't think that one can over-emphasize the importance of "rousing the sleeping giant" : that's of course a reference to the U.S. joining World War II (a fascinating topic I discuss in another blog entry.)

 Whether you think highly of not of Big Pharma, there's no doubt that we "need all hands on deck" to fight a new "world war" : the war against the health decline of aging!

The Dawning of the Age of...

Aquarius?  Maybe.  But also the age of Mainstream for Longevity Science.

The importance of the Altos announcement goes well beyond the giant funding - important (obviously!) as that it...   I personally think that this is a "seismic event" to bring longevity science into Mainstream with capital M!  

It was one thing to have Hal Barron go from longevity companies (Calico) to big pharma... and a far bigger statement, imo, to go the other way 'round.
We are witnessing Longevity Science "coming of age" as Mainstream.

I shared the above sentiment with senior management at GSK, and was met with agreement.

I regard this juncture as a historical moment: the large funding of Altos, the prominent (alleged) participation of Jeff Bezos, and the equally prominent join at the helm of a big pharma Chief Science Officer!  Plus a lot of other funding, rapid-fire research results, and a flurry of startup formation.

I've been waiting for this transition for a long time!  When I wrote my first full article on Longevity Science, "mainstream" was not exactly the first word to came to mind - there was still an aura of "fringe" of science to fend off.  During the intervening years, I've witnessed an incredible acceleration of advancement - and of entry into mainstream.

All said and done, I think we've finally left behind the era when Longevity Science was possibly regarded as "somewhat fringe", or "too out there", or "ahead of the times", or "extremely futuristic", etc!

Other Big Pharmas Hopping on the Train

I have no independent confirmation yet, but in a personal communication by a well-connected investor, whom I believe to be a reliable source, I was told that pharma giant Novartis is very interested in longevity science...  and to some extent Roche also shares the interest.

Whether or not Big Pharma will actually lead innovation in Longevity Science, the "going mainstream" by itself is a major milestone! 
Mainstream = funding, respect, academic participation, ditching the "cult-like" feel, completing the official reclassification of aging as a disease, etc.


Popular posts from this blog

Graph Databases (Neo4j) - a revolution in modeling the real world!

(UPDATED 11/2022) - I was "married" to Relational Databases for many years... and it was a good "relationship" full of love and productivity - but SOMETHING WAS MISSING! Let me backtrack.   In college, I got a hint of the "pre-relational database" days...  Mercifully, that was largely before my time, but  - primarily through a class - I got a taste of what the world was like before relational databases.  It's an understatement to say: YUCK! Gratitude for the power and convenience of Relational Databases and SQL - and relief at having narrowly averted life before it! - made me an instant mega-fan of that technology.  And for many years I held various jobs that, directly or indirectly, made use of MySQL and other relational databases - whether as a Database Administrator, Full-Stack Developer, Data Scientist, CTO or various other roles. But there were thorns in the otherwise happy relationship The root cause: THE REAL WORLD DOES NOT REALLY RESEMBLE THE

Life123 : Quantitative Modeling of Biological Systems

(UPDATED 8/2022) - Are we ready to embark on a next-generation detailed quantitative modeling of complex biological systems , including whole-cell simulations?  An anticipated up-jump in computing power may be imminent from Photonics computers (which I discuss here ), and GPU's are rapidly gaining power as well...  Are we in ready state to put existing - and upcoming - power to good use? This is a manifest, and a call to action What's Life123? It's about detailed quantitative modeling of biological systems in 1-D, 2-D and full 3-D, as well as a multi-faceted software platform for doing so. What's (pseudo-)1D?  For now, let's say it's like the inside of a long, thin tube - with no interactions with the tube.  Likewise, (pseudo-)2D can be thought of as a Petri dish, with no interactions with the lid or the bottom. Website : A purposeful decision to also utilize 1D and 2D But why?  Yes, it's in part about "walk before you run&quo

Discussing Neuroscience with ChatGPT

UPDATED Feb. 2023 - I'm excited by ChatGPT 's possibilities in terms of facilitating advanced learning .  For example, I got enlightening answers to questions that I had confronted when I first studied neuroscience.  The examples below are taken from a very recent session I had with ChatGPT (mid Jan. 2023.) Source: In case you're not familiar with ChatGPT, it is a very sophisticated "chatbot" - though, if you call it that way, it'll correct you!  'I am not a "chatbot", I am a language model, a sophisticated type of AI algorithm trained on vast amounts of text data to generate human-like text'. UPDATE:  this article focuses on some of the impressive abilities of ChatGPT.  For a good glimpse of its weaknesses, in the context of poor intuition about Physics, as well as Math errors, check out this great short video:  ChatGPT does Physics For a high-level explanation of how ChatGPT actually works -

D3 Visualization with Vue.js : a powerful alliance (when done right!)

[UPDATED MAY 2022]  D3.js is a very powerful visualization tool, especially for specialized/custom needs...  On the flip side, it's rather hard to use - with a steep learning curve. Even worse if one also wants interactivity ! But why is D3 so hard/clunky to use?  And what can be done about it? Spoiler alert: Vue.js (or other modern front-end framework) to the rescue - if done right... All code in the examples is available in this GitHub repository . The Root of the Problem In a nutshell, what makes D3 awkward to use is that, for historical reasons, it tries to do too much : most painfully, it uses an old way to do direct DOM manipulation (i.e. restructuring the page layout) - an operation that nowadays is superbly handled in a far more friendly way by modern front-end frameworks, such as Vue.js Document Object Model ( DOM ) is a programming interface for web documents.  In simple terms, it's the structure of the elements on a web page (text, images, etc.) Let the front-e

To Build or Not to Build One’s Own Desktop Computer?

“ VALENTINA ” [UPDATED JUNE 2021] - Whether you're a hobbyist, or someone who just needs a good desktop computer, or an IT professional who wants a wider breath of knowledge, or a gamer who needs a performant machine, you might have contemplated at some point whether to build your own desktop computer. If you're a hobbyist, I think it's a great project.  If you're an IT professional - especially a "coder" - I urge you to do it: in my opinion, a full-fledged Computer Scientist absolutely needs breath, ranging from the likes of Shannon's Information Theory and the Halting Problem - all the way down to how transistors work. And what about someone who just needs a good desktop computer?  A big maybe on that - but perhaps this blog entry will either help you, or scare you off for your own good! To build, or not to build, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of OEM's cutting corners and limit

Brain Microarchitecture : Feedback from Higher-order areas to Lower-order areas

Some questions that arise in Machine Learning involve the prospect of using feedback from Higher-order areas (downstream) to Lower-order areas (upstream), and using Global Knowledge for Local Processing.  A desire to gain insight into those issues from Neuroscience ("how does the brain do it?") led me to some fascinating investigations into the Microcircuits of the Cerebral Cortex.  This blog entry is a broad review of the field, in the context of the original motivating questions from Machine Learning.   Starting out with a quote from the “bible of Neuroscience”: From Principles of Neural Science, 5th edn  (Online book location 1435.3 / 5867).  Emphasis and note added by me: Sensory pathways are not exclusively serial; in each functional pathway higher-order areas project back to the lower-order areas from which they receive input. In this way neurons in higher-order areas, sensitive to the global pattern of sensory input, can modulate the activity of neurons in lowe

PET/CT Combined Scanners - a 2018 Breakthrough of the Year... and a Personal Story

Image source Recently, a co-worker in her 20's was diagnosed with a brain tumor!  At times like these, the importance of medical imaging jumps to the fore! Most people have heard of CT ("CAT") scanners – at least enough to know that they don't actually involve cats – but less well-known are PET scanners (which likewise don't involve pets!), and the synergistic combination of the two. A Marriage Made in Heaven What do those scanners do?  And why are they being combined in single devices? Voted 2018 Breakthrough of the Year by a science magazine , the improved PET/CT combined scanner has been a game changer. The EXPLORER PET/CT scanner – the world’s first medical imaging system that can capture a 3D image of the entire human body simultaneously – has produced its first human images. Developed by UC Davis scientists and a multi-institutional consortium, EXPLORER can scan up to 40 times faster, or use up to 40 times less radiation dose, than

RDF Triple Stores vs. Property Graphs : How to Attach Properties to Relationships

Time for the opening shot of a series about Semantic Technology , and in particular contrasting-and-comparing the opposing (but perhaps ultimately complementary) camps of:   RDF Triple Stores , aka Triples-Based Graphs.   For example, Blazegraph or Apache Jena   (Labeled) Property Graphs .  For example, Neo4j or Blazegraph (For this article, I'll assume that you have at least a passing acquaintance with both.  Here is background info on Triplestores and Property Graphs ) It’s my opinion that modeling in terms of Subject/Predicate/Object triples (aka RDF ) might be appealing to mathematicians or philosophers for its minimalist foundation (though a lot of baroque add-on’s quickly come out of the closet!) Modeling in terms of (Labeled) Property Graphs might be appealing to computer scientists, because such graphs appear more usable and less clunky once you start actually doing something with them. Perhaps because I straddle both the Math and CS camps, I’m currently on t

Anti-Aging Research: Science, not Hype

Last updated December 2022 Q: "How is aging a disease?" A: "It's a dynamic system that veers away from its homeostasis (normal equilibrium point): hence a form of slow-progressing illness. Labeling it as 'natural' is a surrender to our traditional state of ignorance and powerlessness, which fortunately is beginning to be changed!" The above is my standard answer to an oft-asked question. The science of aging is by all evidence very misunderstood by the general public.  Hype, misinformation and unquestioned assumptions often prevail, unfortunately. Aging as a systemic breakdown of the body, rather than a series of isolated events and conditions. This 2013 diagram from NIH is a good way to jump-start contemplating the big picture: The diagram originates from the Cell journal: The Hallmarks of Aging   Telomere shortening is perhaps the one most talked about - but just one of several processes.  As stated in the above paper: Each