We have started a new feature on the website.
We are introducing you to our various Healthspan Campaign partners. For this inaugural post, we spoke with Michael Kope (pictured at right), the president, chief executive officer and co-founder of the SENS Research Foundation.
Q: Tell us a little more about the SENS Research Foundation.
Kope: SRF is a public charity, and we intend to transform the way the world researches and treats age-related disease, by promoting truly comprehensive regenerative medicine. The unique aspect of our work is our focus on a damage-repair paradigm, and we advance that with our own scientific research and with collaborative projects, conferences, events and education programs.
SRF supports three research projects at its Mountain View Research Center, and an additional fifteen projects at universities and institutes around the world. The list includes Oxford, Harvard, Yale, (Healthspan Campaign partner) the Buck Institute and the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The goals are as ambitious as removing the underlying causes of age-related diseases such as macular degeneration, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
And we’re not just research programs: educating the public, building a community of support, and training researchers to support a growing rejuvenation biotechnology field are also major endeavors of the organization. Our internship program is growing, our research advisory board is expanding, and rarely a week goes by without a speaking engagement or event on our calendars.
Q: You just hosted your conference; what were some of the high points?
Kope: The Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2014 Conference was held in August and it was a great success. We brought together leading researchers, venture capitalists, big pharma, biotech, regulatory experts and policy makers – all the major stakeholders in the creation of a new industry. The keynote speakers – George Church from Harvard and MIT, Jim O’Neill from Mithril Capital Management and Peter Diamandis from the XPrize and Human Longevity Inc – all provided different perspectives on this emerging rejuvenation community. Comedian Hal Sparks even came and tailored an entire show to our audience – that was thrilling.
The real magic of RB2014, though, was that we didn’t just bring in leading researchers from the various disease areas; we put diverse areas of study together, in panels that looked across the diseases and at the underlying themes and approaches common among them. The closing panel (“Building a Rejuvenation Biotechnology Industry”) tied together those themes nicely. The audience, and the speakers themselves, responded wonderfully to that whole approach. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging.
You can see the conference program here. We will be posting the conference videos on our website soon … except for Hal – you’ll have to go see his show.
Q: What are some initiatives you are working on that you’d like to share?
Kope: We just published our new SENS Research Foundation Annual Report. The document highlights all our ongoing research, education and outreach initiatives.
One initiative that I am especially proud of, though, is our Summer Scholars Program. It’s a growing program that places students at top stem cell, regenerative medicine and aging research institutes. We invited our 2013 students to present at SENS6 last year and had all of our 2014 interns present posters at our RB2014 Conference. These young scientists are a real next-generation community, and they are going to be the key to the eventual development of damage-repair solutions to the diseases of aging.
Q: What is the role of the SENS Research Foundation in promoting the idea of healthspan?
Kope: The healthspan dialogue is now a huge and multinational conversation. Big pharma is in it, well funded start-ups like Calico are in it, the NIH has launched its Geroscience Interest Group, the UK government has executed its G8 Dementia Summit, and of course the Alliance for Aging Research has been in it for some time. We can all see the rhetoric of aging moving away from the idea of the inevitability of disease. SRF plays its part, and we try to affect the direction of this conversation at every opportunity. And the unique aspect that we bring – the promotion of cures based on the damage-repair approach we call rejuvenation biotechnology – recognizes that genuinely effective interventions may just be able to cure rather than alleviate, to prevent rather than delay, these diseases.