To read about technology startups and researchers exploring ways to extend the human lifespan and extend a feeling of youth and vigor for decades is, inevitably, to read about Silicon Valley. In 2017, Tad Friend documented the many firms there zeroing in on longevity issues in an article for The New Yorker; in 2021, MIT Technology Review‘s Antonio Regalado chronicled the rise of Altos Labs, a startup exploring “biological reprogramming technology.” Earlier this year, Fortune wrote about OpenAI CEO Sam Altman investing $180 million in a longevity-focused startup.
But while Silicon Valley is home to some of the action when it comes to longevity research, it’s not the only game in town. In a recent feature for The Observer, Julia Kollewe makes a convincing case that there’s plenty of interesting work related to longevity research and extension happening in the U.K.
Kollewe’s reporting suggests that the U.K.’s focus on research helps explain why the work being done there is so important to understanding how humans age — and what can be done about it. For one of the experts Kollewe spoke with, the challenge may be in expanding beyond research. “We punch way above our weight in terms of the quality and the quantity of our scientific output in the aging space,” said the University of Exeter’s Lorna Harries.
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The article goes on to describe a kind of tension between research expertise and the willingness to embark on more entrepreneurial ventures, with one interviewee lamenting the relative lack of venture capital in the U.K. compared with the U.S.
There’s also a sense running throughout that zeroing in on any one nation’s efforts could be to the detriment of humanity as a species. As Kollewe’s reporting makes clear, interesting research into longevity is happening all over the world; the next breakthrough might well happen when scientists from around the world make an unexpected connection.