Prof. Bernard C. Rossier

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David Stipp

Freelance science writer, Boston (USA)

Wednesday, October 24, 11:30 - 12:00

Whither the anti-ageing quest?

Recent advances in gerontology—most remarkably the discovery that inhibiting TOR extends lifespan in worms, flies and mice—suggest that the once-ludicrous quest for drugs that brake ageing is ready to become a valid pharmaceutical enterprise. Such drugs promise to increase healthy life-years more cost-effectively than any other medical advance on the horizon and thus potently mitigate economic fallout from population ageing. Recognizing this potential, prominent gerontologists, including the late Robert Butler, founding director of the U.S. National Institute on Ageing, have urged the NIH to mount a major research programme to speed development of drugs that "modestly decelerate" ageing. But policymakers, medical thought leaders and the public have generally ignored such pleas to pursue the "longevity dividend," and despite growing alarm about the soaring costs of geriatric diseases in coming years, the idea of attempting to increase healthspan and longevity with anti-ageing drugs has proved a surprisingly hard sell. Why is this? I shall offer tentative answers and report some signs of progress in the effort to turn gerontology into a branch of applied medicine, including the recent formation of a Geroscience Interest Group at the NIH.


David Stipp is a freelance science writer in Boston, who has focused on gerontology since the late 1990s. His articles on ageing science have appeared in Scientific American, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and other publications, and a book he wrote on the subject, The Youth Pill: Scientists at the Brink of an Anti-Ageing Revolution, was published in 2010. He blogs about research on ageing on his website, and an article he wrote about TOR and ageing appeared as the cover story of Scientific American's January 2012 issue.