New study will test feds' support for anti-aging drug research

Nir Barzilai

Investigators will be making the trek to Washington later this month to make the case for a new study that will explore the impact that metformin has on aging. And in the process, they'll be testing regulators' attitudes about an emerging field in drug development.

Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York tells Nature that aging is fought on a disease-by-disease basis. But that can be the wrong approach. Instead of treating the multitude of diseases that afflicts the old, you should treat aging to prevent the diseases from occurring in the first place.

A drug trial dubbed Targeting Aging with Metformin, or TAME, will do just that, reports Nature. A patient population suffering from diseases like cancer, cognitive impairment and heart disease will be treated with metformin, which is used to treat diabetes. And the investigators will track its ability to forestall comorbidities and death.

The researchers want to use the study to create a precedent with regulators, getting some official sanctions for studying new drugs that can slow down the aging process. In the process, they want to establish anti-aging research as a legitimate field deserving federal research dollars and do away with any lingering notions that anti-aging R&D is more akin to snake oil sales than therapeutics.

"The perception is that we are all looking for a fountain of youth," Stephanie Lederman, executive director of the American Federation for Aging Research in New York, tells Nature. "We want to avoid that; what we're trying to do is increase health span, not look for eternal life."

The move to generate more respect at the federal level comes as Google ($GOOG) has been setting up its own anti-aging biotech, Calico. That new biotech has had no problem earning instant respect. Google recruited the legendary Genentech founder Art Levinson to run the company with Hal Barron running R&D. In recent months the company has laid out plans to build new facilities, in-licensed tech from UCSF and forged deals with the Buck Institute and QB3.

Whether the feds are on board or not, anti-aging drug research is getting underway.

- here's the story from Nature