Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Quest for Human Longevity

Greetings,

Some time ago the New England Journal of Medicine has invited us to write a review of this new book:

The Quest for Human Longevity:
SCIENCE, BUSINESS, AND PUBLIC POLICY
By Lewis D. Solomon. 197 pp. New Brunswick, N.J., Translation Publishers, 2006. $34.95. ISBN 0-7658-0300-3.



This book review was eventually published:

Gavrilov L.A., Gavrilova N.S. The Quest for Human Longevity: Science, Business, and Public Policy [Book Review]. The New England Journal of Medicine, 2006, 354(19): 2663-2664.

Here is the initial original text of the book review, which is more detailed and informative when compared to the abridged final text published by the journal:
This is very unusual book written by a professor of business law from the George Washington University law school. Most other popular books on human longevity are focused almost exclusively on scientific ideas and breakthroughs in life-extension research, and they typically avoid any money talks as inappropriate subject. According to existing tradition, it is believed that scientists are driven mostly by academic curiosity and a noble desire to save a mankind from age-related degenerative diseases, rather than profiting from their research. This somewhat idealistic perspective is challenged in a new book, which describes in a great detail how important money is in modern entrepreneurial world of life-extension and anti-aging research business. The book provides an alternative, more realistic perspective that financial incentives are driving scientific innovations in anti-aging studies by stimulating researchers to take risks and to work really hard.

“The Quest for Human Longevity” goes beyond traditional curtains of financial secrecy when it describes the detailed history of eight corporations that were pursuing anti-aging and life-extension interventions recently -- Geron Corporation, Juvenon, Eukarion, BioMarker Pharmaceuticals, Elixir Pharmaceuticals, Helicon Therapeutics, Memory Pharmaceuticals, and Cortex Pharmaceuticals. Particularly interesting are the candid profiles of their scientific founders and top executives, which include Michael West, Bruce Ames, Stephen Spindler, Saul Kent, Cynthia Kenyon, Leonard Guarentee, David Sinclair, Eric Kandel and other prominent leaders and scientists.

According to this book, there is nothing wrong for researchers supported by taxpayers grant money to be also involved in for-profit businesses, and to benefit financially from their research findings. The book provides many examples of such activities conducted by reputable scientists involved both in life-extension and anti-aging research, as well as in related businesses. The opponents to this practice of commercialized science may disagree with the book author, but still may find this book interesting and useful because of provided particular examples when academic scientists form the link between research and commerce, which they may wish to investigate in more detail.

The book also examines intellectual property, and financing for each of the eight firms that were pursuing anti-aging and life-extension interventions. This helps readers to understand how some of these companies managed to survive without producing any product on the market. This survival was achieved by ‘marking the territory’ -- claiming the intellectual property through patents, and then benefiting from them through license agreements, etc. It would not be exaggeration to say that most profits now come not from the sale of legitimate anti-aging and life-extension drugs, but rather from the sale of future expectations for these drugs in the form of intellectual property. It is not surprising therefore that many of these companies are literally struggling to survive, and the book describes this dramatic struggle for survival for each company in a great detail.

The science behind anti-aging research in these companies is also discussed and it includes such topics as telomeres shortening with age and restoration of telomere length with telomerase enzyme, oxidative damage by free radicals and antioxidant protection, aging retardation through caloric restriction and its mimetics, aging retardation through modulating gene expression, and developing memory-enhancing drugs to cope with brain aging.

Public policy implications of the anticipated dramatic extension of healthy lifespan in the future are also discussed in the book, and a conclusion is made that, on balance, the benefits will outweigh the social problems associated with life extension.

“The Quest for Human Longevity” will be of interest to medical students, scientists involved in biomedical aging research, policymakers, biotech investors, as well as general readers interested in compelling issues of future life-extension and debates over commercialized science.

Leonid Gavrilov, Ph.D.
Center on Aging at the National Opinion Research Center and the University of Chicago Chicago, IL 60637
gavrilov (at) longevity-science.org

Natalia Gavrilova, Ph.D.
Center on Aging at the National Opinion Research Center and the University of Chicago Chicago, IL 60637
gavrilova (at) health-studies.org

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Key words:
Quest for Human Longevity, Lewis D. Solomon, New England Journal of Medicine,Geron Corporation, Juvenon, Eukarion, BioMarker Pharmaceuticals, Elixir Pharmaceuticals, Helicon Therapeutics, Memory Pharmaceuticals, Cortex Pharmaceuticals, Michael West, Bruce Ames, Stephen Spindler, Saul Kent, Cynthia Kenyon, Leonard Guarentee, David Sinclair, Eric Kandel, Anti-aging studies, Caloric restriction


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1 Comments:

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