Hevolution Foundation is just getting started. But we, and many scientists, doctors, policymakers and researchers worldwide, have been grappling with the inevitability of aging for millennia.
Humans have done a remarkable job in living longer. A century ago, the average life expectancy at birth was estimated at 30 years worldwide, and 50 years in developed countries. Today, the global average is over 72 years. Recent UN research suggests world life expectancy will increase, on average, another five years by 2050.
But simply living longer cannot be our end goal.
We must change humanity’s perspective on aging
As author and naturalist Pierre-Jules Renard observed, “It is not a question of how old you are, but a question of how you are old.” We have extended lifespans, but we see increased disease and degeneration, eroding wellbeing, taking away the opportunity to fully enjoy our longer lives.
In fact, chronological age is the single most significant risk factor for common diseases: cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancers and diabetes. In each case, the relative incidence of disease has a geometric relationship to age. As Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, the Director of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging at the National Institute of Aging in the US, observed, “...there has been a shift in how we have considered aging, from something we need to account for… to a causal factor in disease.”
We need a profound shift in thinking. We need to solve an extraordinarily complex problem — one that can be expressed with breathtaking simplicity: now that we can live longer, how do we live better?
The answer is in understanding the processes of aging itself, rather than targeting individual diseases. Hevolution helps the world’s most talented scientists, doctors and researchers take this approach, so longevity can become both a hallmark and a blessing for everyone.
Aging is a global problem that demands an urgent solution
The data in the most recent UN report on global population show that the over-65s are the fastest-growing group in the world’s population; that an increasing number of countries — 55, including China — are experiencing declining populations; and that the ratio of working-age people to those over 65 is plunging.
These trends come with unsustainable social and economic costs. Government and private-sector safety nets that support older citizens have been strained in many countries — even “developed” ones — for decades. By some accounts, even powerful and progressive economies like that of Germany, have unrecorded liabilities associated with aging that far exceed annual Gross Domestic Product.
Until now, this chronological threat has usually been framed in terms of disease. Yet there is a growing awareness of the need for preventative care and wellness to mediate the costs of interventionist approaches. Somehow, the awareness of what Hevolution calls “the aging tsunami” overlooks a central question: what if aging itself was viewed and addressed as a biological condition?
From extending lifespan to improving healthspan
Unfortunately, the current machinery and incentives that drive scientific research and inquiry into aging itself are insufficient and the traditional approach is delivering diminishing returns.
In terms of resources vs. return, the current mechanisms of biopharma research and development are so inefficient that they attracted the name “Eroom’s Law”. This is a backwards version of “Moore’s Law”, which famously (and accurately) predicted in 1965 that advances in computing would double in power, while decreasing in cost, every two years. Drug discovery has become both slower, and more costly, over time, and has led to this ironic name being coined by analysts. Within the field, the survivability of medical discovery as it journeys from the lab to the patient is so low it is referred to as “The Valley of Death.”
Hevolution Foundation commits the resources and creates the conditions necessary to advance our understanding of aging. If we extend not just lifespan, but “healthspan” — the total portion of human life that is lived well, productively, and free from disease — then it is quite possible to imagine our collective future as a species quite differently: a future where we would all benefit from a huge demographic, defined by relatively good health, the ability to work, with income to spend, who could continue to productively contribute culturally and commercially to their communities.
THE COST OF UNHEALTHY AGING