Mike Kope's Address at "Breakthrough Philanthropy"

Posted by Mike Kope, CEO on December 08, 2010 | Founders

Last night, Peter Thiel hosted "Breakthrough Philanthropy", a dinner and presentation event showcasing eight non-profit organizations focused upon game-changing approaches to their fields.  It was a wonderful opportunity for us to convey our message to a large group of entrepreneurs and philanthropists interested in the genuinely transformative.  Our thanks to the Thiel Foundation, and the Seasteading Institute, for their efforts in creating that event. A video of my remarks from the presentation is available on the Thiel Foundation's YouTube channel. Here is the text of those remarks.


Good evening. A man by the name of Frank Fenner died two weeks ago. He was 95 years old. Professor Fenner was at one time the Chairman of a W.H.O. Global Commission, and thirty years ago this Spring he was the man who had the honor of declaring that smallpox had been eradicated from the planet.

It was 25 years before that when Dr. Thomas Francis stood up at the University of Michigan to announce that the Salk polio vaccine was “safe, effective and potent.” Just to remind you of the impact of that – Voice of America reported that day that church bells were ringing across the country before he left the podium.

We’ve gotten very good at conquering infectious diseases. None of you will suffer from polio, or smallpox, or, likely, measles or diptheria. But the truth is, we haven’t extended that kind of success to the problems of aging. You will know someone suffering from cancer, from Alzheimer’s, from Parkinson’s disease. We haven’t yet eradicated a single, major age-related disease. This is despite great advances in therapeutics, despite trillions in research underway around the globe, and despite the brightest minds working in an entire, thirty year long biotech revolution.

Ten years ago, our CSO Aubrey de Grey first suggested … a slightly different revolution. His core idea was a damage repair model called SENS, and a recognition of a simple problem: when medical science focuses upon disease – when we wait for disease to develop – then what we learn is how to chase the pathology – and we haven’t gotten very good at that. But if we look instead at the damage building up as a result of the normal metabolism of being alive, then we can learn to repair that damage before those deadly pathologies develop.

That’s it; that’s all that SENS means: it’s a model that steps away from the expensive and tangled ‘pathology chase’ and focuses instead upon identifying, addressing and removing the damage that is building up inside you; the damage that will eventually cause disease.

It’s a simple statement, but it suggests a complex task. For this revolution to succeed we need to move this way of thinking into the mainstream of medicine. We need to create a new biotech industry. That’s why we created SENS Foundation: to be a credible catalyst for change; to be a public research and outreach organization devoted to the creation of a new field, rejuvenation biotechnology.

The groundwork has been laid. Peter Thiel and other early supporters allowed a handful of visionary researchers to take the first steps in this field a few short years ago. They are now being joined by an increasing number of individuals who believe in the Foundation and its mission.

And, because of that, 2010 has been a big year for us. We’ve expanded our research center in Mountain View. We’ve added new research programs, and we’ve added several new collaborating institutions. Our lysosomal research program, especially, has made great progress in addressing macular degeneration and heart disease. Our Academic Initiative is growing the next generation of researchers. All of these activities are generating quality, peer-reviewed publications.

2011 promises to be bigger still. We have everything in place for ten further important projects, and, if we are successful in fundraising, by mid-2011 we’ll be pursuing at least one research program in every currently recognized category of metabolic damage. What we’re most proud of, though, is that our projects are capturing the imaginations of top tier collaborators in biotech and regenerative medicine. Discussions are underway for a center of excellence at Cambridge University, and at last month’s TEDMED conference, in a joint statement with Wake Forest University, we announced a collaboration with their world-renowned Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

And just before I came on stage, I was told that I could announce that one of the philanthropists who we invited tonight, Jason Hope, has offered a half a million dollars to support these programs.  Thank you Jason.

We are attracting serious attention from the mainstream medical science community – and that’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve.

A man by the name of Frank Fenner died two weeks ago. He was only 95 years old. Medicine hasn’t eradicated a single, major age-related disease … yet … . You can help SENS Foundation change that. Thank you.