Friday, January 06, 2006

Why 'Methuselah Prize' Will Not Save Us

This is an open letter to Aubrey de Grey of the Methuselah Foundation with the "Methuselah Prize." Elixxir challenges him to explain the reasoning behind why he believes The Methuselah Prize will snatch for us the prize every baby boomer yearns for -- the conquest of Old Age. Perhaps there is something Elixxir is missing in de Grey's logic because he still doesn't get it. At the same time, Elixxir will explain to Mr. de Grey why contemporary history tells us a prize is simply not going to do the trick. And if so, what will. And this letter ends with Elixxir's challenge to de Grey.

First of all, Elixxir reveals his bias in favor of de Grey. He agrees with Mr. de Grey on the goal of "curing" Old Age which comes with so much disease, suffering, misery, loss, grief, and eventually Death. If there is any real chance de Grey could procure this conquest of Old Age for us, surely Elixxir would be the first to cheer him on. Having said that, since we are embarked on an audacious goal and monumental mission and do not have the luxury of numbers, state wealth, or time, we must be unflinchingly sober and ruthlessly rational in asking whether this means (the Methuselah Prize) will get us to our end.

Preliminary impertinent question. Mr. de Grey claims to have raised 3 million dollars plus, a significiant sum which testifies to his rather proficient fundraising and promotional skills. But is this 3 million dollars best lying idle in the bank to serve our pressing goal of conquering human aging? Is not giving the prize out immediately somehow the optimum way to inspire and stampede scientists into pursuing anti-aging research? Correct Elixxir if he is wrong. But to his best knowledge, the so-called Methuselah Prize has never been awarded to any scientist yet. At least not in any sizable amount $100,000 or over. Why is this?! That is like not using our meager ammo and primitive weapons in the heat of and at the height of this do-or-die battle.


Yes, prizes don't hurt. But history shows what really works -- a hundred times, a thousand times more powerfully -- is state funding for research.

The Nobel Prize is as good as it gets for prizes. Yet most scientists or grad students who choose to go into a field or line of research don't do it because of the Nobel Prize, because even though it offers a prize of a million plus dollars, and a lot more prestige indeed, it is not a sure thing. It's not something that can sustain a researcher economically over the years. History clearly shows that what does greatly encourage grad students and even established researchers to go into a new field or new line of research is state funding, lots of state funding.

The examples of this fact -- that it is state funding and not prizes which really spurs research and breakthroughs -- are abundant and undeniable. The Manhattan Project. The Apollo Program. The National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institutes.

Even if the Methuselah Prize goes up to 10 million, it will still fall far short to achieve our monumental goal! What is needed is state funding, and what opens up the spigot of state funding so it gushes out to the tune of hundreds of millions, and even hundreds of billions of dollars? Political pressure, lobbying, and grassroots activism.


AIDS, breast cancer, and prostate cancer show how true this is, even in this age of budget deficits and reckless military adventurism.

AIDS went from almost zero funding to just under one billion dollars at the end of Reagan's regime. Yes, Reagan, who courted the Religious Right shamelessly to the point of refusing to even mention the word AIDS, was forced by ACT-UP and its relatively handful of activists into appropriating this amount! Without this, there would be no AIDS cocktails which have saved and prolonged the lives of millions.

Women with breast cancer have organized themselves into groups like the National Coalition for Breast Cancer and have forced the federal gov't to increase funding for breast cancer 800 percent in a few years!


Prostate cancer activists like Michael Milken have compelled the budget for prostate cancer to increase by 20 times to its current half a billion dollars! But Milken understands it is nowhere enough for him, a billionaire, to open wide his deep pocket and set up a foundation that has so far distributed 245 million dollars. But that it's absolutely crucial to lobby the government to match his contributions many times over. Even with all this money, there is still no cure for prostate cancer, as Milken has to admit in his latest letter to his supporters.

Milken of course was not the first to realize the importance of state funding. The pioneer health-issues activist-lobbyist was probably Mary Lasker. She and her wealthy husband set up the Lasker Foundation way back in 1942. The foundation gives out the most prestigious and influential prize for biomedical research in the U.S., a prize which means that someone becomes a contender for the Nobel Prize. (In fact, a good number of its awardees went on to win the Nobel Prize.) And yet, Mrs. Lasker didn’t believe that her foundation’s largess would be sufficient for her crusade against cancer. No, she was astute enough to realize that there must in addition a lot of state funding for biomedical research and cancer research in particular. So she and a small coterie of influential lobbyists got the National Institutes on Health funded. She got the National Cancer Institute set up separately to focus on cancer, and she got Nixon and the U.S. Congress to declare a ”War Against Cancer.”


Can the Methuselah Prize really hope to match Milken in private foundation money? And isn't our goal so much more audacious than his, and if so, how can we possibly believe that we can succeed without massive state funding?!

To cure aging is a thousand times more audacious and complex a goal than to cure one of its symptoms like breast or prostate cancer. This we surely agree. So how can we expect to do it on the cheap? Yes, even 10 million is a joke and will get us nowhere. How can we believe that we can do this on a self-help basis?

Do-it-yourselfism equals Death. Elixxir has pointed this out in his book The ImmorTalist Manifesto. It has killed Roy Walford. It will surely kill every one on his Caloric Restriction List. And it will just as surely kill everyone who has given to the Methuselah Prize too.

It will kill all of us immortalists unless we start getting smart and adopt the right strategy which is so glaring, so historical, so irrefutable, that everyone sees it except us immortalists! And by everyone I mean everyone from civil rights activists, feminists, gays, and, yes, even the Religious Right! Not to mention activists for AIDS, breast and prostate cancer.

If we are to have a real chance at our common goal, then we must be clear-eyed and unsentimental about whether our means will get us to our end. It may be a valiant, noble try, but if it doesn't have a prayer to get me to where we want to go, then it is Naiveté and Romanticism that we simply cannot afford since the stakes are simply too high.

Immortalists who are people of reason and facts must and will consider the above.


There is only one realistic way to get what we want. It requires political organization, lobbying, electoral politics so that we can get the state which collects our taxes to fund what the real silent majority really wants -- the conquest of Disease, Old Age, and Death.

There is no other way. All other way leads to Death!

We immortalists think we are smart, but we don't even get crumbs from the state's funding table. Everyone else does! In the U.S., where Ettinger, the founder of Cryonics, had a media windfall more than 40 years ago, we still do not have anything close to a real movement! We are in the dismal position of where the fundamentalist churches were before they got smart and made up for lost time and got into politics with a vengeance.


Yes, we are in the same primitive political stage as the apolitical do-it-yourself fundamentalist Christians when they didn't think they should get involved in political lobbying or electoral politics, much less get Caesar and its funding behind them.

The Elixxir Program is 100% scientific and based on the only anti-aging eating program known to science and medicine. Based on the abundant body of scientific literature and on what it has done for Elixxir, he is convinced it is the best way to slow down aging dramatically and buy Time so that we'll be around to benefit from the breakthroughs. But if Elixxir claims that The Elixxir Program alone is sufficient to save us from Old Age and Death without the help of massive political intervention and state funding, then you have every right to laugh. And yet this is what Roy Walford and his CR list has basically claimed. Walford, who died at 78, was wrong, dead wrong.

We must form a political movement capable of successfully pushing for dramatically increased funding for anti-aging research. At the level of The Manhattan Project or The Apollo Program. Ettinger should have started over 40 years ago. If he had succeeded, we would have a place at the state funding table. But he didn't even try. So now we must, or we too will surely grow old like Ettinger, and perish.


Mr. de Grey, Elixxir believes you can make a difference. But not with the mortally-flawed strategy behind The Methuselah Prize. You can help us leap towards our shared goal of conquering human aging by helping Elixxir and others create the ImmorTalist political movement we urgently need. It will take much less to seed it than ten million dollars. In fact, your million dollars will do just fine. It will be the best investment you and your donors can make towards the real prize we all seek. What do we get in return? Hundreds of millions, tens of billions, hundreds of billions of dollars, pumped into anti-aging research to make sure the breakthroughs come in time to save us!

Stay Young & Prosper!