Official Press Release from The Methuselah Foundation
July 11, 2006; The science magazine Technology Review has released the results of the SENS Challenge, which was established to test the validity
(Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), the brainchild of longevity researcher Dr. Aubrey de Grey. SENS
lays out a detailed engineering approach to alleviating and eventually reversing the debilitation
caused by aging. Following a controversial profile of de Grey published by Technology Review in 2005, Dr. de Grey’s charitable foundation, The Methuselah Foundation, and Technology Review jointly offered $10,000 each to establish the SENS Challenge. This $20,000 purse
would be awarded to qualified experts who could demonstrate that SENS was “so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate.”
An eminent panel of judges, comprising Rodney Brooks, Ph.D., Director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Anita Goel, M.D., Ph.D., Founder and CEO of Nanobiosym; Vikram Kumar, M.D., Co-Founder and CEO of Dimagi, and a pathologist at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston; Nathan Myhrvold, Ph.D., Co-Founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures, and former Chief Technologist at Microsoft; and J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., Founder of the Venter Institute and developer of 'whole-genome shotgun sequencing,' which significantly sped-up the Human Genome Project, deliberated over the three serious submissions and has now delivered its verdict...
The judges’ unanimous opinion is summed up by Dr. Myhrvold, who
observed: “Some scientists react very negatively toward those
who seek to claim the mantle of scientific authority for ideas that have not yet been proved. Estep,
et al., seem to have this philosophy. They raise many reasons to doubt SENS. Their submission
does the best job in that regard. But at the same time, they are too quick to engage in
name-calling, labeling ideas as 'pseudo-scientific' or 'unscientific' that they cannot really
demonstrate are so. We need to remember that all hypotheses go through a stage where
one or a small number of investigators believe something and others raise doubts.”
Robotics pioneer Dr. Brooks stated, “I have no confidence that they [SENS detractors] understand engineering, and some of their criticisms are poor criticisms of a legitimate engineering process.” Dr. de Grey commented: “The result of the TR SENS Challenge is a decisive rebuke to those gerontologists who have dismissed SENS as 'unscientific' and neglected to study it in detail. The Challenge judges forcefully and accurately describe SENS as a radical, necessarily speculative, but legitimate engineering proposal that merits fair consideration. SENS can of course be legitimately doubted, but it cannot now be legitimately derided."
Technology Review has also announced that it is to make a $10,000 payment to Estep, et al., in recognition of what it terms their "careful scholarship." David Gobel, Co-Founder of the Methuselah Foundation, commented: "While of course Technology Review is at liberty to make whatever ex-gratia payments it likes from its own funds, it is important to make it clear that this "consolation prize" was awarded outside the framework of the SENS Challenge, and without consulting or notifying The Methuselah Foundation, which contributed half of the, as yet unclaimed, $20,000 SENS Challenge fund. Technology Review's verdict is in stark contrast to that of the SENS Challenge judges, who noted that Estep, et al., were 'too quick to indulge in name-calling' and that 'it would be overstating the case to assert that Estep, et al., have proven their point.'"
SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) is a detailed plan for alleviating the debilitation caused by human aging. SENS is an engineering project, reflecting the fact that aging is a medical condition and that medicine is an engineering discipline. Aging is a set of progressive changes in body composition, at the molecular and cellular level, which are side-effects of essential metabolic processes; each of these changes has the potential to be mitigated and eventually reversed. Further details of SENS can be found at: www.sens.org .
About The Methuselah Foundation:
The Methuselah Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to raising the awareness of the potential for near-term science-based aging interventions using modern technologies. Its primary activity is The Methuselah Mouse Prize, which is being offered to the scientific research teams that significantly extend the lifespan of middle-aged laboratory mice. Further details of the Methuselah Foundation can be found at: www.mprize.org.
About Technology Review:
Technology Review, the oldest technology magazine in the world (est. 1899), is owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. TR’s February 2005 profile of Dr. de Grey can be found at www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?id=14147&ch=biotech .
About the SENS Challenge:
Details can be found at: www.technologyreview.com/sens/index.aspx.