The Saudi royal family has set up a non-profit organization called the Hevolution Foundation, which plans to spend up to $ 1 billion a year on its oil wealth to support basic research into the biology of aging and find ways to lengthen the number of years people live. in good health, a concept known as the “health span.”
The sum, if the Saudis can spend it, could make the Gulf state the main sponsor of researchers trying to understand the underlying causes of aging and how it could be curbed with drugs.
The foundation has not yet made a formal announcement, but the scope of its effort has been outlined in scientific meetings and is the subject of enthusiastic talk among aging researchers, who hope to subscribe to major human studies on possible anti-aging drugs.
The fund is managed by Mehmood Khan, a former Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and chief scientist at PespsiCo, who was hired as CEO in 2020. “” Our main goal is to extend healthy living. ” “There’s no bigger medical problem on the planet than this,” Khan said in an interview.
The idea, popular among some longevity scientists, is that if you can slow down the aging process of the body, you can delay the onset of multiple diseases and prolong the healthy years that people can enjoy as they age. Khan says the fund will provide grants for basic scientific research into the causes of aging, as others have done, but also plans to go one step further by supporting drug studies, including trials of “treatments that have patent expired or never obtained “. marketed ”.
“We need to translate this biology to advance human clinical research. Ultimately, it won’t make a difference until something appears on the market that really benefits patients,” says Khan.
Khan says the fund is allowed to spend up to $ 1 billion a year indefinitely and will be able to take on financial stakes in biotech companies. In comparison, the U.S. National Institute of Aging division, which supports basic research on the biology of aging, spends about $ 325 million a year.
Hevolution has not announced which projects it will support, but people familiar with the group say it is considering funding a $ 100 million X prize for the old investment technology and has reached a preliminary agreement to fund a test of the diabetes medicine metformin in several thousand elderly people. people.