A newly established Silicon Valley-based prize to "hack the code of life and cure aging" was launched yesterday, Sept. 9.
Called the Palo Alto Longevity Prize, the $1 million cash award seeks to kick-start an initiative that would restore the adult body's youthful resilience, perhaps helping to reduce diseases associated with aging and mortality, and improve longevity.
Dr. Joon Yun, president of Palo Alto Investors, LLC, is the prize's benefactor. Palo Alto Investors has $1 billion in assets under management invested in healthcare, according to the announcement of the prize.
"Cracking the code on the fundamental aging process may allow us to influence the actual biology of aging, thereby slowing or resolving the process of aging and many diseases and issues related to aging. If we solve this, we all win," competition organizers said in the announcement.
The prize will be divided into two $500,000 awards, given to the first teams to unlock the secrets of a foundational trait known as "homeostatic capacity." Homeostatic capacity is the ability of the body's systems to stabilize in response to stressors.
As the body ages, its ability to recover from diseases, injuries and lifestyle stresses such as a late night or loss of sleep becomes more difficult. In youth, blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels can return easily to normal levels. But as homeostatic capacity erodes with age, the body no longer is able to regulate these changes as effectively, resulting in diseases such as diabetes or hypertension.
Increased homeostatic capacity could in theory allow people to live perhaps 120 years, organizers said.
One prize would be granted to the team to demonstrate it can restore the homeostatic levels in an aging adult mammal to the levels of a young adult; the second prize would go the first team to restore homeostatic capacity to extend the lifespan of a mammal by 50 percent of acceptable published norms.
Cracking the code of aging would have vast societal implications, according to prize organizers.
"The end of aging would be the end of health care as we know it," the website states. The end of aging would sever the escalating costs of health care that is overwhelming the current health system.
Teams won't have to give up their intellectual property to compete for the prize or divulge proprietary information. Prize winners must obtain their own funding for research during the competition. Organizers are working with angel investors, venture capital firms, corporate venture organizations, institutions and private foundations to provide access to additional capital to teams during the competition. Transactions between teams and the investors will be done privately.
Eleven teams, most from across the United States, are already signed up, including Volts Medical of Mountain View and the Jin Hyung Lee Lab at Stanford University. Organizers say additional teams can also compete.
More information on the Palo Alto Longevity Prize is available at www.PaloAltoPrize.com.