(Initial publication on October 1991; slightly updated on February 11, 2011 and again on December 24, 2013. )

The Gerontology Research Group -- with chapters located in Los Angeles, CA, San Francisco, CA, New York, NY, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, GA -- is dedicated to the proposition that death is not an inevitable consequence of the human condition. Throughout history, a variety of apologists for this condition have sought to persuade us that death must be desirable, since it was unreasonable for us to try to do anything about it. But, to the contrary, we hold that aging is simply a biological phenomenon dictated by our human genome. Therefore, it is susceptible to clinical intervention like any other physiological/pathological process, such as heart disease, cancer, COPD, stroke, or diabetes. With advances in modern science and medicine accelerating, it is now time to devote significant resources to turning the tide and to appreciate that death is an imposition on the human race that should no longer be tolerated.

In our view, the human lifespan is a side effect of an historical adaptation to our role as hunter-gatherers, a role that was capriciously thrust upon us without our consent ~200,000 years ago during the evolution of our mammalian hominid species. We imagine this prior era to have been a fiercely competitive time during which Homo sapiens slowly differentiated from our primate cousins through a process of Darwinian natural selection. There is now evidence that no fewer than 20 hominid species (who stood on two legs) appeared on the scene around the same time as we did, lived for a while, and then subsequently became extinct (presumably not by choice). However, following the acquisition of sufficient technical means, our species came to dominate the Earth (through the discovery of civilization), and we declared an immediate halt to this relentless Darwinian game of life (thus, we ruthlessly eliminated all potential predators). Subsequently, we came to appreciate the phenomenon of our own mortality secondary to intrinsic aging (biological aging is never visible in nature; it only manifests itself in the context of zoos where creatures are protected from predators within a civilization). Recognizing our impotence to do anything about our condition, we decided that it was more prudent not to complain too loudly. This may explain the basis for universal institutional apologism. But now we are approaching a time (The Singularity) in which we will routinely intervene in the aging process at the molecular level. We therefore dedicate ourselves to removing this arbitrary constraint of a sharply limited human lifespan (a longevity phenotype that we now name "The Calment Limit" in honor of Madam Jeanne-Louise Calment who died in 1997 at the age of 122). Furthermore, we seek to accomplish this challenge within our own lifetimes.

In particular, we strive to achieve before the year 2040:

(1) A rigorous scientific understanding of the genetic and cellular mechanisms of embryological development, reproductive maturation, aging, and senescence;

(2) The application of ongoing research in experimental biogerontology with the aim of extending vital human lifespan without limit (as currently dictated by natural biological processes).

Accordingly, we are open to consider a variety of therapeutic interventions, providing that they can be shown to be effective, and that they can be reduced to practice within our own lifetimes. Examples of such interventions include, but are not limited to the following: genetic engineering using retroviral or liposomal vectors for the delivery of Human Artificial Chromosomes that involve longevity determination, Embryonic and Autologous Adult Stem-Cell Technology (induced pleuripotent cells, Therapeutic Cloning, and related cytokines), telomeric manipulations to extend their length (to overcome the Hayflick Limit of mitotically-challenged cells), rejuvenation of mitochondria such as takes place during fertilization of the oocyte with epigenetic reprogramming, discoveries in nutrition or dietary restriction, the development of new pharmacologic agents, the novel delivery of medications and/or natural hormones (or their secretogogues) using implantable pumps, nanotechnology, cryonic suspension (but only as a last resort), and other experimental investigations utilizing cells from bacterial colonies, yeast, nematodes, fruit flies, fish, rodents, bats, rabbits, monkeys, whales, as well as human embryonic and adult stem-cell lines.

Summary: As everyone is taught in childhood, the Biblical Prime Directive or biological imperative for our species is to "Go forth and multiply." Our own GRG Prime Directive, however, is quite different. It can be stated as...

"We seek to live indefinitely with the physical vigor of youth while retaining the intellectual abilities of our present-day and ever-expanding mental capacity."

Objection by Religious Fundamentalists:

The ethics of modifying/editing our DNA to create this non-senescent human condition has finally become clear. There would be nothing immoral or sacreligious whatsoever about repairing our own poorly-designed DNA to fit our own purpose. Indeed, God did not tell us that our species was to be designated as custodians/stewards of all other creatures on the planet to be exploited for our own purposes, as stated in the Old Testament (Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis). This was simply wishful, self-indulgent, magical-thinking on the part of our illiterate ancestors who told tales around the campfire to their tribal children/grandchildren and labeled these stories "sacred prophesy," so that the next generation would more easily memorize the verses in the then oral tradition (long before the invention of writing). To the contrary, all creatures great and small, including our own species, are part of a biological continuum with no special hierarchy whatsoever. The only true criterion for biological success is "non-extinction of the next generation." Indeed, God would not shed a tear if humans were suddenly obliterated from planet Earth tomorrow.

But who is God anyway that He might actually consider shedding a tear? There is no teleological basis to His "intentionality" or "God's will" ("Thy will be done."). But this is an absurdity. There is no design, purpose, intent, or objective function to having a God be the divine creator of our planet along with its myriad life forms. As far as life is concerned (fast forward from the "Big Bang" to planet Earth 5 BYA), God is nothing more than a stochastic process (mathematically random over chronological time) in which He is constantly inserting mutations revising/altering/editing our computer machine code (written now in the form of DNA nucelotide sequences) to construct new biological machines that may perform better (fitness) within the ecology/ecosystem, all the while subject to the standard Laws of Physics (especially the 2nd Law [Entropy]). The program includes many phenotypic stepping-stone phases, e.g., {seed, sprout root, bud, bloom, attract insect(s)/bird(s)/bat(s) with a variety of color- pigments/fragrances, wilt, rot} employing a metaphor from the selfish agenda of flowering plants in which the last two phases occur when the "flower program" runs out of code ("new things to do"). Implementation of these codes in proteins (print functions) has been a non-trivial task, of course; but God has been at this for more than a few billion years, and He's had plenty of room at the bottom (atoms, molecules, organelles, etc.) to play around with that have been cleverly concealed from our sight (due to their nanotechnological nature until the last century when sufficient means slowly emerged).

So, what about the sacredness of never touching our DNA code? There's nothing sacred about it. I repeat: There is nothing sacred about it. Our code was fabricated according to the same laws of Las-Vegas or Monte-Carlo Casinos in which the House wins but nobody else in particular among the patrons will leave a winner; they will all depart empty-handed sooner or later if they continue to place bets. If you want to be a winner, buy stock in the casino; never play there, no matter what your "game of choice." So there you have it. Conventional religion of all persuasions has sold you a bill of goods for its own purposes - - the self interest of the clergy and its high priests. Indeed, we have a sacred duty to modify our DNA or we will surely perish, as have all our biomachine predecessors before us. Gaining access to pristine sequences of our DNA for autologous infusion of fresh stem cells will be highest on our agenda until we figure out how to construct artificial chromosomes for the purpose of rejuvenation of our wretched, aging bodies once we are past our time of highest fertility. I guess it's time to get back to work.

Click for an audio narration of the text shown above. Sadly, it appears that our audio files have been lost in transferring files between servers and did not make it over when we changed Internet Service Providers many years ago. We will search for them when time permits.

Notes on our early history: The First Draft of this Charter was composed during in the Fall of 1991. It has not been substantially revised over the last 22 years, so it has remained highly durable. - December 2013.
In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that there once was an organization that preceded the GRG. It was formed by four individuals (Stephen Coles, Charles Goldberg, David Griffith, and Alfred Kromholtz) who met together as a group at one moment in time in New York City during the Summer of 1960. The name of the organization was parsimoniously called The Organization.
The Project defined by this prescient group after about two hours of discussion was called "Project I" [BTW, the "I" stood for Immortality, not for the Roman Number One, although there might be future projects with a new numbering system to sort them out, if this first Project were ever to be completed]. The original Project called for three subparts to be completed by the year 2000: Biology (40 percent), Bionics (40 percent), and Implications for Society (20 percent). Progress reports were to be written every ten years in 1970, 1980, and 1990, with a Final Report to be completed in the year 2000. In retrospect, the first part (Molecular Biology) has turned out to be the most difficult and continues to consume all of our full-time attention. The documentation for these reports exists in type-writer written form (computers did not exist in 1961). Hopefully, someone someday will extract this document buried in all my personal papers (240 boxes of books in storage) distinguished with the Classification "Restricted to Core," formally declassify it, scan it in to a pdf file, and publish it on this website for all to read. - Steve Coles