Silicon Valley Launches Another Bid To ‘Hack’ Aging, Cheat Death

By Aaron Kinney
San Jose Mercury News.

SAN FRANCISCO

Ever wanted to stretch your life to Old Testament proportions? You may be in luck. A movement of Silicon Valley thinkers and entrepreneurs wants you to live as long as Jacob, who died at 147, and maybe even Noah, who made it to 950.

One year after Google created a company named Calico with the goal of extending human life, Menlo Park investor and Stanford-trained radiologist Joon Yun has launched a $1 million science competition with the lofty aim of “curing” the disease more commonly known as aging.

While Calico’s plan remains largely opaque, Yun has laid out specific criteria for the 11 teams that have already signed up to compete for the Palo Alto Longevity Prize, which focuses on improving “homeostatic capacity,” or the ability of an organism to bounce back to normal in the face of stress.

At a swanky launch party this month in San Francisco, Yun declared aging an urgent problem, saying every day 100,000 people die unnecessarily of age-related illness.

The Presidio gathering included proponents of life extension who believe the current limit on human life, roughly 120 years, can be pushed back several decades, or perhaps hundreds of years.

“Ultimately, I think we’ll crack the age code and we’ll hack aging,” Yun announced. “And if we do, not only will health care be transformed, but humanity. At that point we’ll have unlocked human capacity.”

The idea for the competition came from Yun’s daily life. As president of Palo Alto Investors, an investment fund targeting the health care sector, Yun gets an early look at innovative research.

At the age of 46, he’s noticed the many small ways in which his own homeostatic capacity has degraded over time, for instance, recovering from a poor night’s sleep.

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