National Academies Keck Futures Initiative: Future of Human Healthspan

I had to leave the Hillblom meeting early to jump on a plane to Irvine, where I’ll be attending the National Academies/Keck Futures Initiative meeting on “The Future of Human Healthspan.” The conference format is a little unusual: They’ve split us up into “task groups” which are going to discuss matters ranging from cell and molecular basis of senescence to demographic and sociological aspects of aging — and then present the results of our discussion to the rest of the attendees.

One upshot of this is that I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to liveblog the proceedings, since I’ll be actively engaged in discussion much of the time. I’ll do my best, though, and I’ll certainly summarize everything once the dust settles on Friday.

UPDATE 11/15/2007: As I feared/expected, the conference schedule has been grueling. The attendees are in twelve groups of about twelve participants each, all working on one of seven aging-related questions ranging from demography to the cellular basis of age-related decline. The goal is to present a summary of our approach to these outstanding problems at a session tomorrow morning.

Right now, we’re evaluating the rough, quick versions of all the presentations, and I’ve decided to hold off on blogging them until they’re finished. Stop by tomorrow for what may be as many as a dozen posts (a record for this site, for sure), summarizing what happens when 150 of the world’s experts on aging spend two days engaging in brainstorming and intensive discussion.

UPDATE 11/17/2007: Well, clearly I didn’t just write a dozen articles about the presentations. There’s a good reason for that: The NAKFI folks are making the generous offer to entertain grant proposals based on ideas emerging from the group brainstorming sessions. Because of the sensitivity of some of the information presented, as well as a sense of professional etiquette (no one who’s writing a funding proposal wants to see their ideas broadcast online three months before the application deadline), I’m going to wait until the official summaries are released in a few weeks before mentioning the content of the morning sessions.

Overall impressions: Several of the groups were enthusiastically pushing boundaries, describing roadmaps that will take us from where we are know now, through the process of developing new technologies and approaches for tackling longevity-related issues, and on to the fruition of what I have to say will be truly groundbreaking work. My own section (on the cellular and molecular biology of aging) developed quite an ambitious agenda, thanks in large part to some very well-developed ideas that Richard Miller (whom we’ve mentioned here before) brought with him from Michigan. I’m very enthusiastic about the concepts we discussed, and in implementing them as a research program. I’m eager to talk about them in this forum as well, but — all good things in the fullness of time.