The Hevolution Foundation, a non-profit organization established by a Saudi Royal Decree and receiving funding from the Saudi government, has publicly emerged and announced up to $1 billion a year to fund the science of increasing healthy human lifespan.
Rumors have been trickling out about the Hevolution Foundation for a few years now. The organization has been operating in a bit of secrecy, but there is now much more clarity as the Hevolution Foundation has come forth and publicly introduced themselves in an article posted by Dr. Mehmood Khan, who serves as the organization’s Chief Executive Officer.
The article states that Hevolution Foundation is “a pioneering new organization with a laser-like focus on dramatically improving a condition that affects every human on the planet: aging.
Our mission is to drive efforts to extend healthy human lifespan, or healthspan, and to better understand the processes of aging…”
To this end, they have an annual budget of up to 1 billion US dollars to accelerate science and bring therapies to the market.
What exactly this money will be spent on is still unclear, but near the top of the list appears to be helping to fund the long-anticipated Targeting Aging with Metformin Trial, or TAME Trial. Led by Dr. Nir Barzilai, TAME would test whether those taking the popular diabetes drug metformin experience delayed development or progression of age-related chronic diseases—such as heart disease, cancer, and dementia. This study has been in the works for years with funding as the major remaining obstacle.
The team at Lifespan.io has also made it a priority to get the TAME Trial off the ground, and may become involved in this directly in the days ahead, so be on the lookout for potential future announcements on that front.
Another possible destination for some of this money, which was mentioned in a recent MIT Technology Review article from Antonio Regalado, would be funding a possible $100 million XPRIZE for age reversal technology. Longevity is something that XPRIZE has been eyeing for a while, and I expect some serious action, including the potential launch of this prize, in the near future.
So who is behind this, and why? Hevolution Foundation CEO Dr. Mehmood Khan is a well-known leader in the longevity community. He’s a founding member of the Longevity Biotechnology Association, which we covered in a previous episode, and serves as Executive Chairman of Life Biosciences, a company co-founded by Harvard’s Dr. David Sinclair seeking to develop therapeutics that can prevent, treat, or reverse multiple aging-related conditions. Previously Dr. Khan served as Global Vice Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer of PepsiCo.
The rest of the Board of Trustees and Management Team is composed largely of members of the Saudi royal family and Saudi officials, and the Chairman of the Hevolution Foundation Chairman is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, son of the Saudi king and widely regarded as the de facto government leader.
Other noteworthy members of leadership include Russian billionaire and British peer Evgeny Lebedev, who controls media outlets including the Evening Standard and The Independent, American billionaire businessman and part-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins Ron Burkle, and former CEO & Chairman of Dow Chemical Andrew Liveris.
So, why is the Saudi government so interested in longevity? In part this makes sense given the nation’s claimed focus on the future through initiatives such as Saudi Vision 2030, which seeks to diversify their economy and invest in sustainability, healthcare, education, artificial intelligence and robotics projects. Part of the motivation for some of these initiatives could also be to improve the image of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi government in the eyes of the international community.
Beyond that, Dr. Khan’s introduction article states that “There is evidence that Gulf Cooperation Council populations are aging faster biologically than they are chronologically. Despite the region having one of the youngest populations in the world, its people are experiencing higher mortality from chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Hevolution’s goal is healthspan equity and we will devote the resources needed to achieve it. This region, with its history of generating founding principles in science and medicine, yet suffering from significant age-related risks, presents a strong case to be the catalyst for healthspan transformation worldwide.”
One concern that we sometimes hear when discussing longevity is “What if there ends up being an oppressive dictator that never dies, and therefore holds power forever?” This is a concern that might especially come up when a single nation, such as Saudi Arabia, invests in longevity technology. We previously released an episode of the XtenShow explaining why this fear is misguided, but I do think it’s one we’ll continue to face, and should have good answers for.
In this particular case, I want to see that Saudi Arabia is seeking to forward science to help everyone – not just their leadership, and not just their country. Thankfully, that appears to be the case. Under the headline “A Transparent Global Organization,” the Hevolution Foundation website states that “we seek to democratize science and knowledge”. They go on to say that “We aim to work closely with global entities and research centres that share the same mission and objectives. Global success depends upon global collaboration, which lies at the heart of our mandate.” While the organization is headquartered in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, they say there are hubs planned in North America, Europe and Asia.
This sounds great, but we as a longevity community, and an international community, should watch closely to make sure that these things do in fact happen.
For anyone who is still skeptical, or worries that Saudi advancement in this arena will leave other nations behind, this could be a great opportunity to encourage your own governments to invest in the fight against aging as well.
Overall, I am very excited to hear this news. Any investment that accelerates the development of longevity technologies is a good thing in my eyes, and I look forward to what’s to come from the Hevolution Foundation.
When there’s more to share, we’ll have it for you here, so please subscribe so you don’t miss out! I’m Ryan O’Shea and we’ll see you next time on Lifespan News!