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Aubrey de Grey

addition to that we’re getting close to a million dollars that’s actually been pledged for the prize, to be given in aliquots of a thousand dollars a year by the various benefactors. So it’s really an enormous success, and the P.R. value is great. The idea of the whole thing of course is to do something that people can identify with. People turn off when they listen to science quite often, but they understand world records, which is what these prizes are for, of course The prizes are for producing unprecedentedly long-lived mice. People understand competitions and prizes, so it’s just been enormous successful, and continues to be so.

David: What’s the conference that your organizing in Cambridge this September going to be about?

Aubrey: The conference that I’m going to be running in Cambridge in September this year is the second one of these that I’ve done. I ran a similar conference in September of 2003, which was a massive success. Basically, the purpose of this conference is to do on a comprehensive scale the same thing that I’ve done on a much smaller scale four times now, which is to bring scientists together whose areas of expertise are rather wide-ranging–but which all relate to a particular area or a general concept that I want to explore. So, for example, the conference that I ran last summer was on this business of using bacterial genes to get rid of junk inside cells. It’s a complicated concept, and it needs people who understand the things that this junk does in the body, how it contributes to age-related diseases, and so on. 

It needs people who know how to manipulate genes and who can get the proteins to go to the right places in cells. It also needs people who know how to find bacteria that can do a particular thing, and who can then find the genes that are responsible for the bacteria doing that thing. So these are people who would never normally be talking to each other, and I got them all together in a room for a day. We published a paper on this. Similarly, the previous year, I did the same sort of thing for the idea I had for curing and preventing cancer.

So, basically, the conference this September is going to be doing that on a much bigger scale, with maybe fifty or sixty speakers, covering all areas of my whole anti-aging scheme. It’s a marvelous way of getting people to educate each other about what’s possible, because even when scientists are working on something that’s going really well, they’ll tend to appreciate that their own part is going pretty well, but their instinct will be that everyone else’s work is probably not going so well. So when people hear about each other’s work this way it makes a big difference.

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