Anti-Aging & Wellness Corner

World’s Billionaires Pay a High Price to Age Well

Find out how Larry Ellison, David Murdoch spend their money to look younger.


By: Tom Branna

World’s Billionaires Pay a High Price to Age Well

A long life is surely a remarkable achievement. Everyone wants to live longer, and science is starting to make it happen. An American born today has a projected average lifespan 20 years longer than one born in 1925. It’s a trend that’s been happening for decades. By 2035, adults age 65 and older will outnumber children under 18 for the first time.1 People have sought to escape or outrun their mortality with potions, pills and elixirs. The quest to live forever has always been part of human spirit. However, serious researchers have long avoided pursuing anti-aging therapies because they fear being labeled “dreamers” or “charlatans.”

According to Dr. Richard Miller at the University of Michigan’s Glenn Center for Biology of Aging, the concept of slowing aging, and the onset of diseases that come with it, was fantasy; now it is a true scientific strategy. While some billionaires are in a space race, others are trying to live for 100 years or longer.

Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison has donated $500,000 to anti-aging research. Google Co-Founder Larry Page helped fund Calico, a lab that describes itself as wanting to understand the biology that controls aging and lifespan. David Murdoch, a 93-year-old billionaire and owner of Dole, eats banana and orange peels. He is a fervent believer in consuming fruits and vegetables. Human Longevity Inc., a start-up by J. Craig Venter, the first person to sequence a human genome with private funding ($100 million).

“My goal is to live beyond 180 years,” says Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof Coffee and self-proclaimed “Father of Biohacking.”

For five or six days a week, Asprey spends three minutes in a $50,000 tank full of air chilled to -270°F, which he insists increases the density of his mitochondria. Asprey also does cardio with various parts of his body strapped in plastic sleeves full of ice water in a machine called Vasper. He breathes 100% oxygen, and sits in an infra-red sauna playing ping-pong against a robot—all to increase his lifespan.

Pharma Takes a Pass

It is interesting to note that pharmaceutical companies haven’t developed drugs to increase human lifespan. Perhaps, this is because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider “aging” a treatable condition. Even if anti-aging drugs are possible, they would require dangerous and ethically troubling clinical trials before they would be approved. As a consequence, today there are many privately-owned longevity labs engaged in the search for anti-aging therapies and drugs. This column will briefly review such research.

Ardent believers buy into the concept of living upward of 5,000 years or forever, as expressed by Peter Thiel, the entrepreneur behind PayPal. He has invested in Unity Biotechnology, which is devising therapeutics to delay age-related diseases at the cellular level. Unity Biotechnology raised nearly $116 million in 2016 alone. That success attracts more money to pursue more research. At the National Academy of Medicine’s Healthy Longevity Global Grand Challenge, an old mouse and a young mouse were surgically connected to share blood. The result? The older mouse became youthful. A similar study at Stanford University and University of California, San Francisco, showed a turnaround in cognitive aging and better memory in elder mice that were injected with the plasma of younger ones.

Blood Brothers…or Fathers?

Some people will go to great lengths to slow the aging process!
A company called Ambrosia infuses blood from teenage donors into older clients who insisted they looked younger when they left the clinic. Clients are said to require two transfusions a year to maintain benefits.

According to Ambrosia, younger blood has far lower levels of harmful proteins that build up with age, which usually cause decreased production of brain cells and inflammation. Blood-based longevity therapies may be in our future, but the science is not there yet.

Dr. Aubrey De Grey has emerged as one of the boldest thinkers and organizers in the science of aging. He cites seven key underlying deadly processes that sound the death knell: too few new cells, too many old harmful cells, mutations in the cell nucleus, mutation in mitochondria, junk within cells, junk between cells and proteins sticking together.

BioViva is conducting an experimental anti-aging gene therapy. The Seattle biotech firm wants to make gene therapies as common as preventative medicine. The company is developing targeted treatments for aging-related degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, as well as cosmetic procedures like skin rejuvenation.

Dr. Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, describes high profile anti-agers as “Immortalists,” people who insist death is an option, not a given. He predicts that this year alone, $4.5 billion will be invested in life and health extending science. According to Barzilai, aging drives diseases. If you stop aging, you stop disease. The mechanisms that target aging are the same mechanisms that extend health span and lifespan. His current research on diabetes medicine Metformin led to a study called TAME (Targeting Aging with Metformin). His study showed that old people using Metformin had one-third the mortality from COVID-19. His research is being financed by billionaires.

Barzilai and few other heavy hitters in aging research had to cajole the FDA into letting them run the experiment. They argued aging is a major risk factor for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Therefore, preventing these diseases can be seen as a proxy for slowing aging.

Teaching an Old Dog

Matt Kaeberlein, a biologist at the University of Washington, is testing a human transplant drug on aging dogs. Results are so promising that several super-rich, live-forever types have called to get in on the experiment. There are more people than you would guess who are conducting experiments on themselves.

Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School and University of New South Wales in Australia2 predicts that soon there will be age-reversing injections, laced with a small number of reprogramming genes. These injections will be administered to 30-year-olds and the effects will kick in 15 years later. The result? Gray hair disappears, wounds heal faster, wrinkles diminish, and subjects feel 30 again. Sinclair said the epigenome, which is made up of chemical compounds and proteins that can attach to DNA and direct it, is a potential aging culprit. Epigenome turns genes on and off, but loses information with aging, according to Sinclair. It essentially stops cells from reading the right genes. To stave off his own aging, Sinclair takes vitamins D and K, and Metformin, which is prescribed for type 2 diabetes, because it reduces incidents of other age-related diseases. Sinclair even fasts on a daily basis by skipping breakfast and having a late lunch, regularly exercises and eschews red meat. Calorie restriction has shown to extend the lifespan of everything from yeast cells to monkeys.

The only proven technique that extends life is calorie restriction, notes Dr. Mark Menolascino, founder of Meno Clinic Center for Advanced Medicine.

An End to the End?

Is the world really ready for an aging cure? Finite resources would be used up, retirement costs would soar and health care expenses would be astronomical. However, new science shows that daily choices can help us live better and longer. Researchers are optimistic about efforts to delay the effects of aging and, perhaps extend lifespans.

Although humans are living longer on average, the longest lifespan has remained essentially unchanged at about 120 years. In May, researchers at Gero published a paper in Nature Communications suggesting the maximum lifespan for humans is somewhere between 120 and 150 years.3 Our genes harbor many secrets to a long and healthy life and scientists are now beginning to uncover them. New forms of gene therapy are shown to produce rejuvenating effect in mice, but its human clinical applications are yet years away. 

  1. The science of Living longer, Special Time edition
  2. M. Kaplan, Inside the billionaire-funded NY Post, July 21,2021
  3. Nature Communications, May 25, 2021. Article number: 2765 (2021)

Navin Geria
Chief Scientific Officer
Ayurderm Technologies, LLC
[email protected]
Navin Geria, former Pfizer Research Fellow is a cosmetic and pharmaceutical product development chemist and the chief scientific officer of AyurDerm Technologies LLC, which provides Ayurvedic, natural and cosmeceutical custom formulation development and consulting services to the spa-wellness-dermatology industries. He has launched dozens of cosmeceutical and ayurvedic anti-aging products. Geria has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care industry and was previously with Clairol, Warner-Lambert, Schick-Energizer, Bristol-Myers and Spa Dermaceuticals. He has nearly 20 US patents and has been published extensively. Geria edited the Handbook of Skin-Aging Theories for Cosmetic Formulation Development focus book published in April 2016 by Harry’s Cosmeticology. He is a speaker, moderator and chairman at cosmetic industry events. 

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