Attention Bill Gates: Aging is the biggest problem in global health – Divert your grant money to where it will have the greatest impact


5 Years ago Bill Gates decided to seek out proposals from the world’s top scientists. He wanted these scientists to submit their ideas for tackling the biggest problems in global health. About 1,600 proposals came in and he chose 43 that he felt were the most promising. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ended up dishing out $450 million in five-year grants — more than double what he originally planned to give.

Now the five years are up, and the foundation recently brought all the scientists together to assess the results and decide who will get further funding.

In a NY Times article on this topic, Mr. Gates sounded somewhat chastened, saying several times, “We were naïve when we began.” Despite discoveries on many fronts, up to two-thirds of the grants either did not get renewed or may not in the near future, Mr. Gates estimated. In some cases, it was because they were not succeeding, either scientifically or because of political obstacles, or someone else had found a better path. In others, the foundation changed the goal.

As an example, he cited the pursuit of vaccines that do not need refrigeration. “Back then, I thought: ‘Wow — we’ll have a bunch of thermostable vaccines by 2010.’ But we’re not even close to that. I’d be surprised if we have even one by 2015.”

He underestimated, he said, how long it takes to get a new product from the lab to clinical trials to low-cost manufacturing to acceptance in third-world countries.

In 2007, instead of making more multimillion-dollar grants, he started making hundreds of $100,000 ones. “Now,” he said, only half-kidding, “you get a hundred grand if you even pretend you can cure AIDS.”

That little won’t buy a breakthrough, but it lets scientists “moonlight” by adding new goals to their existing grants, which saves the foundation a lot of winnowing. He added, “a scientist in a developing country can do a lot with $100,000.”

“But I thought some would be saving lives by now, and it’ll be more like in 10 years from now.”

Well to Mr. Gates: The grant amounts that are being donated could have a huge impact on bringing therapies to the whole world and not only to developing countries. Wanting to help poorer countries is certainly a noble goal however a greater good can be accomplished by investing in life extension because it will help both the developing countries and the rest of the world. Close attention needs to be paid to regenerative medicine, genome regulation, neuroscience, and other technologies in this field as those can result in groundbreaking discoveries that would benefit all of humanity as opposed to thermo-resistant vaccines that would help a small portion of the world’s population. Let’s not fail to mention that most of the grant money donated 5 years ago has resulted in failed pursuits to date.

Mr. Gates needs to be facilitating and supporting life extension research. What is important is to identify and develop strategies to slow and combat the human aging process. Controlling human aging will enable us to remain alive, healthy and vigorous for centuries.

Mr. Gates said: “No idea is too radical” in what he termed as the Grand Challenges in Global Health and the goal was to pursue paths that the National Institutes of Health and other grant makers could not. Based on these statements in the article, we can see that the money has not been spent effectively so far. As life extension specialists, gerontologist and on behalf of all humanity – we are urging you to help pursue an expansion into anti-aging research.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Attention Bill Gates: Aging is the biggest problem in global health – Divert your grant money to where it will have the greatest impact

  1. Leslie Seymour

    To his credit, Microsoft has been funding Gordon Bell’s MyLifeBits “Digital Immortality” program for the last decade. Bill Gates authored the Foreword of the “Total Recall” book which presented the results. a concluding chapter is dedicated to ” Health LifeLogging” which Gordon Bell called the killer app for LifeLogging. Lives can be saved and extended all over by better decision making based on better health data capturing, archiving and management and on more informed life-style.

    Neuroscience based mind uploading, Cryonics and other biomedical immortality approaches will also need digital immortality data for validation and development support purposes.

    • Yes, thanks, Leslie, I’ve read about this project and I find the idea really great. However, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has nothing to do with this and my primary concern is grant money for research, which can bring miracles into our lives.

      • Leslie Seymour

        I missed your focus here on the Gates Foundation, indeed Maria, my apologies. In no case should LifeLogging compete for funding with medical longevity research, agreed. The nice thing about the former is that it is a platform technology supporting a miriad of applications, health and immortality being only one of them. If properly managed, the profit from many of the supported applications could be used to sustain progress in general here.

  2. Brad Arnold

    At first I thought “great, just what the world needs is more people living longer” since the carrying capacity of the Earth has been surpassed already given the current technology and sociology, but then it started dawning on me that if the minority of people who are discovering new technology could have longer more productive lives, the entire planet would be greatly enhanced. The way out of our current dilemma of collapsing ecosystems and overpopulation isn’t the next Great Extinction, but instead more technology (if that makes me a technophile, then so be it).

    Let me add that the best way currently to live longer is to go on a CRdiet, a low technology method that only requires an iron will. “Immortality will come to such as are fit for it.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • James Clark

      I believe in quality over quantity and with the advent of such technologies as preimplantation embryo selection and possible somatropic genetic therapies more people will be superior instead of mediocre.
      Although I concede also that the CRON (Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition)is the most researched means of low tech life extension. I personally believe people should consider the combination of low glycemic Veganism as well as orthomolecular interventions to acquire optimal nutrient levels.
      Information for such an approach can be found at lef.org, Terrywahls.com, and of course veganism is simply not eating animal products. The trick is to see what approaches garner results and combining the various factors. A vegan diet and the Atkins diet promote similar health promoting effects however, they’re opposite in nature. This obviously can be caused by genetic diferences but, this is unlikely when randomized studies involving folks from various incomes, racial, and ethnic groups are chosen to participate.

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  4. James Clark

    One of the biggest issues I see with billionaires is they want to be seen as “humanitarians,” and as such seek to contribute to that which will make them appear to be the most caring.
    The third world has become a place for arrogant people to show they care. Ironically as more funds pour into the third world from the first world our infrastructure becomes more in a state of disrepair, our security is lacking, our social institutions are falling apart and the first world begins to resemble the third world with little attention paid to what will happen to the third world when the first world has lost its ability to produce and maintain order.
    Longevity research is overlooked far too often and has been for far too much time. What has continued to annoy me is that authentic Scientists are given little credit or notoriety if they take a serious look at life extension and that it really is not only possible but, actually achievable. But, there are whole pseudo-sciences pretending to be medicine such as Psychology or Psychiatry which have weak evidence at best to support their claims.
    I can only hope that at some point in time there will be a citizen’s rights movement that champions longevity research and other things which promote the betterment of civilization. But, until the population at large wakes up any of us that have such hopes seem to be paddling up river in very frigid and treacherous waters.
    I’m lucky enough not to be an academic with a career on the line so I can freely say these things without fear of repercussions to my career. Real respect is deserved by people like Maria and others who bravely put there careers and reputations on the line in support of the well being of humanity at large and such behavior deserves the support of the people who will be the primary benefactors of their work and dedication. They are the humanitarians of the world not those who control the capital. Sadly however,our world seems to run on profit and capital.

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