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|Focus||Life extension, rejuvenation, tissue engineering|
|Method||New Organ Prize, Mprize, Research Grants, Angel Investing|
The Methuselah Foundation is a non-profit organization co-founded in 2003 by David Gobel and Aubrey de Grey. Its mission is to ‘make 90 the new 50 by 2030’ by supporting tissue engineering and regenerative medicine therapies. Their work includes: incubating and investing in early-stage life science companies, funding scientific research, providing fiscal sponsorship to aligned projects, and sponsoring inducement prizes. The charity was named after Methuselah, the grandfather of Noah in the Hebrew Bible, whose lifespan was recorded as 969 years.
In 2000, the foundation was originally conceived by David Gobel as the Longitude Prize Society, named after the British government’s Longitude Act, which set up monetary rewards for anyone who could devise a portable, practical solution for determining a ship’s longitude. In 2003, the organization was made public as the Methuselah Foundation at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the American Aging Association, where they awarded the first Methuselah Mouse Prize to Andrej Bartke for his work on mice that lived the equivalent of 180 human years.
The Methuselah Fund was created as an LLC subsidiary of the Methuselah Foundation to incubate and invest in early-stage companies. Investments to date have included: Organovo (NYSE: ONVO), a leader in 3D bioprinting; Silverstone Solutions (acquired by BiologicTx in 2013), a maker of kidney-matching software that enables hospitals and transplant organizations to more quickly and accurately pair patients with compatible donors; Oisin Biotechnologies, a company aiming to remove senescent cells, commonly seen as a hallmark of aging; and Leucadia Therapeutics, a company working to address Alzheimer’s disease by restoring the flow of cerebrospinal fluid across the cribriform plate.
New Organ Alliance
The Methuselah Foundation fiscally sponsors the New Organ Alliance, an initiative working to raise awareness and facilitate research to help alleviate organ donation shortages. In 2013, the foundation announced the New Organ Liver Prize, a $1,000,000 award to the first team that can create a bioengineered or regenerative liver therapy for a “large mammal, enabling the host to recover in the absence of native liver function and survive three months with a normal lifestyle.”
In partnership with the Organ Preservation Alliance, New Organ facilitated a technology roadmap report for organ banking and bioengineering solutions to help address organ shortages. The roadmap was developed through a workshop on May 27, 2015 in Washington, D.C., with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Methuselah, along with a subsequent roundtable held by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on May 28. Two follow-up perspectives were published, “The Promise of Organ and Tissue Preservation to Transform Medicine” and “Bioengineering Priorities on a Path to Ending Organ Shortage."
In 2016, NASA announced the Vascular Tissue Challenge in partnership with the New Organ Alliance. Creating a sufficient blood vessel system – vasculature – is often seen by biomedical researchers as a primary impediment in engineering thick tissues. The Vascular Tissue Challenge offers a $500,000 prize “to be divided among the first three teams that successfully create thick, metabolically-functional human vascularized organ tissue in a controlled laboratory environment.”
In conjunction with the Vascular Tissue Challenge, New Organ Alliance hosted the Vascular Tissue Challenge Roadmapping Workshop – with funding from the NSF – on November 9-10, 2016, at the NASA Research Park.
Methuselah Mouse Prize
The Methuselah Mouse Prize (Mprize) was created to increase scientific and public interest in longevity research by awarding two cash prizes: “one to the research team that broke the world record for the oldest-ever mouse; and one to the team that developed the most successful late-onset rejuvenation strategy.” The Mprize was announced publicly in 2003 by David Gobel and Aubrey de Grey at the American Aging Association. The prize for longevity was first won by a research team led by Andrzej Bartke of Southern Illinois University. The prize for rejuvenation first went to Stephen Spindler of the University of California, Riverside. Additionally, in 2009, the first Mprize Lifespan Achievement Award went to Z. Dave Sharp of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio for extending the lifespan of already aged mice using the pharmaceutical rapamycin.
On May 30, 2014, at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the American Aging Association, Methuselah Foundation awarded a $10,000 Mprize to Huber Warner for his founding of the National Institute on Aging’s Interventions Testing Program.
3D bioprinter grants
In 2013, Methuselah Foundation began a partnership with Organovo to fund the use of their 3D bioprinters at academic research centers for biomedical research. Under the grant program, the foundation committed “at least $500,000 in direct funding for research projects across several institutions.” Recipients to date include: Yale School of Medicine (John P. Geibel), UCSF School of Medicine (Edward Hsiao), and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (Melissa Little).
Bowhead Whale Genome
In 2015, with funding from the Methuselah Foundation and Life Extension Foundation, the bowhead whale genome was sequenced by João Pedro de Magalhães and his team at the University of Liverpool. The bowhead whale is possibly the longest-lived mammal, capable of living over 200 years. The genome project was undertaken to learn more about the mammal’s mechanisms for longevity and resistance to age-related diseases, which are unknown. An assembly of the bowhead whale genome has been made available online to promote further research.
Organ Preservation Alliance
In 2013, Methuselah began fiscally sponsoring and collaborating with the Organ Preservation Alliance (OPA), an initiative coordinating research and stakeholders for the preservation of tissues and organs. OPA's activities have included: hosting Organ Banking Summits, developing a technology roadmap for organ banking, creating the first Organ and Tissue Preservation Community of Practice with the American Society of Transplantation, organizing an “Organs on Demand” workshop at the U.S. Military Academy, publishing an expert-consensus article on organ preservation in Nature Biotechnology, and contributing to the Department of Defense’s five organ-banking grant programs, seeding an “estimated $15 million into collaborations among 35 groups."
Supercentenarian Research Foundation
In 2006, Methuselah contributed capital and fiscal sponsorship to launch the Supercentenarian Research Foundation (SRF). SRF was formed to study why supercentenarians, people over 110 years of age, live longer than most, and why they die. Eight autopsies of supercentenarians were conducted by SRF, with six indicating senile cardiac transthyretin (TTR) amyloidosis at the time of death. TTR amyloidosis “amasses in and clogs blood vessels, forcing the heart to work harder and eventually fail.”
SENS Research Foundation
From 2003-2009, Methuselah Foundation served as the backbone organization for the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) program, a long-term research framework developed by Aubrey de Grey. The SENS program aims to prevent or reverse seven forms of molecular or cellular damage associated with aging.
During that time, de Grey and David Gobel established SENS-related research programs on human bioremedial biology – “getting the crud out” in Methuselah’s parlance – at Rice University and Arizona State University. The programs were the first use of environmental remediation principles directed at reversing “pollution” in human cells. Additionally, Methuselah sponsored a series of SENS-focused roundtables and conferences, and funded the writing of Ending Aging, co-authored by de Grey and Michael Rae.
In 2004, Methuselah Foundation began a donor initiative called the Methuselah 300 (“The 300”), a community of philanthropic donors pledging $25,000 over 25 years, at a minimum of $1,000 annually, toward the organization. The initiative was named after the 300 Spartans who held the pass at Thermopylae in 480 BC during the Greco-Persian Wars. In addition, in 2015, the foundation began memorializing The 300 donors with a monument at St. Thomas Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
On September 16, 2006, Peter Thiel announced a pledge of $3.5 million to the Methuselah Foundation and the SENS program to “support scientific research into the alleviation and eventual reversal of the debilities caused by aging.”
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