In the heart of New York City in the prominent Capitale conference hall, the sixth annual Longevity+DeSci Summit held its third live event this year. The event’s host, Lifespan.io, used this platform to introduce the concept of Decentralized Science or DeSci, a relatively new yet intrinsically linked component of the longevity field. DeSci, in simple terms, is science conducted outside the traditional academic framework.
One might argue the concept of DeSci has the potential to revolutionize our approach to longevity sciences, in part due to the burgeoning presence of blockchain technology. Blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies such as BTC and ETH, and its associated developments such as play-to-earn games and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), could empower a new chapter in DeSci. This holds particularly true for biotech firms seeking alternative funding paths to the fiercely contested and finite National Institute of Health (NIH) grants.
On the other hand, it is worth noting that some critics argue that this shift could undermine some of the traditional safeguards inherent in scientific research such as peer-reviewed publications. This skepticism is even more pronounced in anti-aging longevity research, a field that has often been viewed with cynicism or even indifference by traditional researchers.
In exploring the potential benefits, the event’s speakers highlighted the exciting applications for blockchain technology in the longevity field. For example, the introduction of intellectual property-NFTs and the use of blockchain-assisted funding methodologies were key discussion elements in the respective presentations by Harvard’s Dr. Vadim Gladyshev and University of Copenhagen’s Dr. Morten Scheibye-Knudsen.
Moreover, the use of NFTs for funding research, demonstrated by Dr. Scheibye-Knudsen’s Longevity Molecule Project, is an innovative way of harnessing this new technology. Yet, it’s not without its share of controversies. Critics continue to argue that these financial practices risk creating a preferential treatment system, where high-net-worth individuals could bypass critical medical research regulation, thus undermining the integrity of blind studies.
On a final note, one of the central issues emerging from the summit was not about the potential for longevity science to assist people in living forever, but more about the change in our collective understanding of health and aging. The focus was on treating the root causes of health conditions rather than addressing them symptomatically. The opportunities offered by blockchain technology in both longevity science and DeSci are equally exhilarating as they are contentious, resulting in a complex intersection of technology, health, and ethical considerations.