Re: [GRG] Calico Contradicts SENS

Hi, Natalie,


Thanks very much for your comments, most of which are news to me.  I must tell you that I visited Cynthia in her office not long before she was tapped for Calico, and she told me of a plan to translate basic genomic findings into mice in preparation for translation into humans.  Her plan seemed appropriate, so my take is that, regardless of the reason she was brought into Calico,
and regardless of what may not have worked in the past, Calico made the right decision in bringing her in. I totally agree that yeast and worms are not humans, but genes are genes, and genes drive aging in all species, and I think Cynthia
knows this, and this is what gives her so much potential in my view.  YES, people do not always live up to their potential, but Cynthia has been a heroine of mine for very many years, and I think she was a terrific choice for Calico, and one of the very best choices they could have made.  But please to not hesitate to bring any more negative news to my attention, because I fully acknowledge that my information is limited. 


I will also say that Cynthia’s idea, as told to me at the time, is not as dramatic as some of the things Dr. Church spoke about at his talk at RB2014, which profoundly impressed me, so much so that I recently flew to Boston to interview him.  And of course, David Sinclair comes up with blockbuster after blockbuster, and Criag Venter is an incredibly accomplished
person with major resources behind him. 


I realized, after sending my message, that it could easily be misunderstood as dismissing everyone but the four people I picked as those in the best position to profoundly roll back aging in our lifetime.  That was absolutely not my intention nor the way I feel about the vast majority of biogerontologists, almost all of whom I have the most profound respect and admiration for, including I think everyone at the Buck Institute, which clearly has much more than “nothing” in the pipeline, contrary to my very over-stated comment.  What I was trying to say is that the four I mentioned, with their power and savvy, have the best chance of moving us toward profound solutions sooner rather than later.  But one of my absolute favorite interventions, GDF11, came out as a result of the stellar achievements of many labs over many years, and in no way do I want to minimize the
importance of that work or uncountable additional stories in aging intervention in the slightest.  My message was mostly about the significance of the private sector as the way forward toward clinical applications.  Academic labs have a different job description, even though they are one of the main engines that drive the discoveries that can then be transferred into the medical realm.


  — Greg

On Saturday, October 25, 2014 8:09 PM, Natalie Jones wrote:


Please don’t misinterpret the following as an assault on Dr. Kenyon, who’s contributions to basic science I respect and admire. But she has been around longer than SENS and her early success in worms* 21 years ago did not result in any human interventions (any idea how much public funding went into this?). She has a black belt in commercial failures. Elixir and her other companies had substantial VC backing. I attended a lecture by Dr. Sebastian Sethe, who explained these mysterious ventures. *Kenyon, C., Chang, J.,
Gensch, E., Rudner, A., & Tabtiang, R. (1993). A C. elegans mutant
that lives twice as long as wild type. Nature, 366(6454), 461-464.According to one of my friends with knowledge on the matter, the real reason why Art Levinson hired her is their intimate friendship since his days at UCLA. The real brain power behind Calico is David Botstein, who is expert in gene expression and signaling pathways in yeast (

Going from worms and yeast into humans may turn to be more of a challenge than SENS. And we can not ignore Buck, public sector, pharma and China. What about Anthony Atala and the rest of ? What Calico doing is great, but it will be a team effort.


On Sat, Oct 25, 2014 at 3:19 AM, Gregory M Fahy wrote:



Contrary to your anticapitalist sentiments, Calico’s science is headed up by Cynthia Kenyon, who is hellbent on creating anti-aging interventions for her own sake as well as for the sake of everyone else.  Kenyon is one of the very top scientists in the world with the kind of insight and resources to make aging interventions a practical and widespread reality.  Her concepts are worlds ahead of the antiquated SENS ideas and far more likely to bear fruit in the nearer term.  Buck has nothing, so no reason to bring them up by comparison.


Stay tuned.  I think it’s a race between the brilliance of Cynthia and the brilliance of George Church.  If he’s lucky, Craig Venter might have an input as well. 
Buck, no.  SENS RF, no.  The public sector, no.  The race is on.


— Greg 

On Thursday, October 23, 2014 2:57 PM, Florin Clapa wrote:

Alex, I’m not sure
that simply repairing damage can be equated with helping SENS in
this case. Statins also repair damage to a certain extent (by
shrinking atherosclerotic lesions), but don’t qualify as SENS,
because they mess with metabolism. I suspect your reference to
“the signalome level” might belong in the same category. A quote
at FightAging! about activating endogenous, damage-repair
mechanisms can be interpreted to mean that you’re trying to
upregulate metabolic pathways to increase rates of repair. This
is also MWM from the SENS perspective, but perhaps, you meant
something else. Can you clarify this issue?

Florin Clapa

On 10/23/2014 1:12 PM, Alexander Zhavoronkov wrote:

Hi Florin,

Medicine’s technology is applicable to several of the
SENS strands because some of our approaches are
essentially looking for ways to repair damage on the
signalome level. We just want to validate the technology
in age-related diseases to develop a more solid revenue
stream. And yes, after we close our second round of
funding we will put a dedicated resource to apply our
technology to three of the SENS strands where we can
help evaluate the possible effectiveness of and screen
for interventions. So SENS makes sense even when you try
to think about it through the prism of Big Data



On Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 2:21 PM,
Florin Clapa

The article you linked to has
quotes that could be interpreted as being pro-SENS.

At any rate, Calico may pursue both SENS and
non-SENS approaches. Even some (e.g., InSilico
Medicine) that are sympathetic to SENS are pursuing
non-SENS aging research, because they think it will
lead to the faster development of therapies. Calico
may also share this reasoning to a certain extent.
Since they’re a commercial organization, they might
not want to reveal their strategy too clearly.

Florin Clapa

On 10/19/2014 5:13 PM, Elliot
Temple wrote:


A top executive at Google’s antiaging biotechnology company said this week that scientists must identify and understand the underlying biology of age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s before finding a cure.

Barron said researchers must focus on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of a disease before developing possible treatments

“it behooves us to really spend a lot of time trying to understand the biology of human disease,” said the clinician-scientist

Does anyone know if they have, somewhere, any actual arguments against the things Aubrey de Grey has explained? E.g. that you don’t have to understand all the biological details “before” you can do anything about aging [1]. Or are they just kinda ignoring the arguments in the field and proceeding irrationally?

I checked their website for arguments, but they’ve chosen not to put up any ideas about why their approach is right or how to think about the field. Nor do they link to an explanation by someone else they think is good and are using. So how is one supposed to criticize any methodological mistakes they may be making, or judge whether they are doing a good job, etc?

[1] de Grey, Aubrey; Rae, Michael (2007-09-04). Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime (pp. 5-6). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.

For decades, my colleagues and I had been earnestly investigating aging in the same way that historians might “investigate” World War I: as an almost hopelessly complex historical tragedy about which everyone could theorize and argue, but about which nothing could fundamentally be done. Perhaps inhibited by the deeply ingrained belief that aging was “natural” and “inevitable,” biogerontologists had set themselves apart from the rest of the biomedical community by allowing themselves to be overawed by the complexity of the phenomenon that they were observing.

That night, I swept aside all that complexity, revealing a new simplicity in a complete redefinition of the problem. To intervene in aging, I realized, didn’t require a complete understanding of all the myriad interacting processes that contribute to aging damage. To design therapies , all you have to understand is aging damage itself: the molecular and cellular lesions that impair the structure and function of the body’s tissues. Once I realized that simple truth, it became clear that we are far closer to real solutions to treating aging as a biomedical problem, amenable to therapy and healing, than it might otherwise seem.

(More detailed explanation can be found in the book.)

Elliot Temple

About Johnny Adams

My full-time commitment is to slow and ultimately reverse biological aging and age related decline for more years of healthy living. I’ve been active in this area since the 1970s, steadily building skills and accomplishments. I have a good basic understanding of the science of aging, and have many skills that complement those of scientists so they can focus on science to advance our shared mission. Broad experience Top skills: administration, management, information technology (data and programming), communications, writing, marketing, market research and analysis, public speaking, forging ethical win-win outcomes among stakeholders (i.e. high level "selling"). Knowledge in grant writing, fundraising, finance. Like most skilled professionals, I’m best described as a guy who defines an end point, then figures out how to get there. I enjoy the conception, design, execution and successful completion of a grand plan. Executive Director Gerontology Research Group (GRG). Manages Email discussion forum, web site, meetings and oversees supercentenarian (oldest humans, 110+ years) research. CEO / Executive Director Aging Intervention Foundation (dba for Carl I. Bourhenne Medical Research Foundation), an IRS approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Early contributor to Supercentenarian Research Foundation. Co-Founder Geroscience Healthspan Forum. Active contributor to numerous initiatives to increase healthy years of life. Co-authored book on conventional, practical methods available today to slow the processes of aging – nutrition, exercise, behavior modification and motivation, stress reduction, proper supplementation, damage caused by improper programs, risk reduction and others. Fundamental understanding of, and experience in the genomics of longevity (internship analyzing and curating longevity gene papers). Biological and technical includes information technology, software development and computer programming, bioinformatics and protein informatics, online education, training programs, regulatory, clinical trials software, medical devices (CAT scanners and related), hospital electrical equipment testing program. Interpersonal skills – good communication, honest, well liked, works well in teams or alone. Real world experience collaborating in interdisciplinary teams in fast paced organizations. Uses technology to advance our shared mission. Education: MBA 1985 University of Southern California -- Deans List, Albert Quon Community Service Award (for volunteering with the American Longevity Association and helping an elderly lady every other week), George S. May Scholarship, CA State Fellowship. BA psychology, psychobiology emphasis 1983 California State University Fullerton Physiological courses as well as core courses (developmental, abnormal etc). UCLA Psychobiology 1978, one brief but fast moving and fulfilling quarter. Main interest was the electrochemical basis of consciousness. Also seminars at the NeuroPsychiatric Institute. Other: Ongoing conferences, meetings and continuing education. Aging, computer software and information technology. Some molecular biology, biotech, bio and protein informatics, computer aided drug design, clinical medical devices, electronics, HIPAA, fundraising through the Assoc. of Fundraising Professionals. Previous careers include: Marketing Increasing skill set and successes in virtually all phases, with valuable experience in locating people and companies with the greatest need and interest in a product or service, and sitting across the table with decision makers and working out agreements favorable to all. Information Technology: Management, data analysis and programming in commercial and clinical trials systems, and bioinformatics and protein informatics. As IT Director at Newport Beach, CA based technology organization Success Family of Continuing Education Companies, provided online software solutions for insurance and financial professionals in small to Fortune 500 size companies. We were successful with lean team organization (the slower moving competition was unable to create similar software systems). Medical devices: At Omnimedical in Paramount CA developed and managed quality assurance dept. and training depts. for engineers, physicians and technicians. Designed hospital equipment testing program for hospital services division. In my early 20’s I was a musician, and studied psychology and music. Interned with the intention of becoming a music therapist. These experiences helped develop valuable skills used today to advance our shared mission of creating aging solutions.
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