Saudi Arabia Is Betting Big on Longevity Research

September 1, 2023

Saudi Arabia Is Dangling Billions for Research on Aging. Scientists Are Lining Up to Take It.

The kingdom’s plans to put more than USD 1 billion a year into global efforts on longevity stir anticipation—and hesitation around the country’s politics.

What amount of money would you spend to stop aging?
For a growing number of wealthy individuals and cash-flush institutions, the answer is simple: whatever it takes.As scientists develop a clearer understanding of how we age, so-called biohackers are embracing controversial drugs, building wellness-enhancing homes and shelling out big bucks at longevity clinics to extend their lifespans. Other wellness warriors are going a step further, and investing in efforts to reverse aging.This week, we’re taking a closer look at Saudi Arabia’s financial backing of aging research—and the questions it raises about the price the world is willing to pay to extend the human lifespan.The kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has allocated more than USD 1 billion a year to the Hevolution Foundation, a longevity nonprofit founded in 2018 by royal decree. The organisation, which doesn’t conduct its own research but aims to work with established institutions to boost underfunded areas of study, could dramatically expand global funding for longevity research.
“There’s a lot of snake oil. There’s loads of claims, and one of the things we always have to ask ourselves is ‘What is this based on, and is it legitimate? Is it anchored in real science?’”
Dr. Mehmood Khan, CEO of Hevolution Foundation
But some scientists have been hesitant to partner with an absolute monarchy that’s been accused of reinvesting its oil wealth in pro sports teams and startups to distract from its human-rights abuses. Dr. Aditi Gurkar, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Aging Institute, says she paused before applying for Hevolution funding, but proceeded due to the nonprofit’s global approach to aging science. The Saudi media ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment from the prince.

🤔 What effect will Saudi Arabia’s investments have on longevity research? Send me your thoughts, questions and predictions by hitting “reply” to this email.

More on this topic:

  • 🎧 The science behind anti-aging. (Listen)
  • What old age might be like for today’s 30-year-olds. (Read)
  • 🎥 Boosting autophagy, the cellular recycling process, might slow aging. (Watch)