WHAT IS LONGEVITY?
Longevity is a measure of our number of disease-free, productive years. In other words, it is our "healthspan."
Healthspan is a more important metric for understanding the wellbeing of a nation than that of “lifespan” because health is so closely tied to a person’s overall wellbeing. The healthspan of a nation also has enormous implications for economic output, social cohesion and the stability of our entitlement programs.
Unfortunately, the United States ranks last in health adjusted life expectancy (HALE) compared with other developed countries. This is largely due to the high prevalence of chronic illness in America.
Tragically, our poor healthspan is one of the reasons why COVID-19 has hit the United States particularly hard. It is also the major driver of healthcare spending in the United States, both public and private.
While poor lifestyle choices can accelerate the onset of chronic diseases, aging is the leading risk factor for chronic illnesses that account for 90% of all deaths in industrialized countries. These diseases include cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other dementia, frailty and more. Treatments for these diseases of aging account for 75% of all health care spending in the United States.
Where is Longevity Science?
We have the potential to create a new class of medicinal therapies that reduce the likelihood of many age-related diseases by targeting the biological process of aging itself.
The opportunities presented from such therapies are enormous. Once fully developed, these treatments could eventually add decades of healthy life expectancy to human life, with extraordinarily positive implications for our happiness, our economy and social safety net. The economic upside is even higher if the United States establishes itself as the center of this potentially multi trillion-dollar industry. However, there are several major obstacles preventing these potential treatments from being fully developed and reaching the public.
Current Barriers in Longevity Science
Lack of Clinical Trial Pathway
There is not a clear pathway for therapies targeting aging to enter clinical trials and be cleared by the FDA.
In order to enter the FDA clinical trial process a potential drug candidate must target a recognized disease or condition with defining qualities that have been agreed to by regulators. Aging is not categorized as either by the FDA, and thus, a treatment labeled as an “aging” drug cannot currently enter clinical trials. Instead, scientists tackling one or multiple of the nine hallmarks of aging, be it epigenetic alterations or senescent cells, must cater their research and studies toward combating one of the age-related diseases recognized by regulatory bodies.
A4LI will work with Congress and the executive branch to establish a unique regulatory pathway for preventative therapies that target the biology of aging
Aging research is severely underfunded. Despite aging being the number one risk factor for disease, less than 1% of the National Institute for Health’s (NIH) budget is spent on research to understand the biology of aging. This is because NIH, much like all modern medicine, has a disease focused model that pours disproportionate attention into treating disease instead of preventing it. Even the National Institute of Aging (NIA) within NIH spends just 10% of its budget on research of the biology of aging. Most of it is spent on neuroscience (dementia research).
Every dollar spent researching the biology of aging is like spending a dollar each on research into every single age-related disease. It is arguably the most efficient and highest value return target of public research funding.
Longevity Information Gap
Although there is a clear connection between aging and the many chronic diseases and conditions we and/or our loved ones face every day, the public and Congress are largely uninformed about the potential medical interventions that could arise through increasing resources for aging research. This information gap, as well as the general longstanding taboos surrounding aging treatments, have created an additional hurdle for the development of longevity drugs.
A4LI aims to close the longevity information gap by discussing the importance of aging research with members of Congress and their staff, as well as by engaging with the public through media, events and direct outreach.