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Saudi Arabia to Spend One Billion a Year to Slow Aging

Anyone who has more money than they know what to do with eventually tries to cure aging. Google founder Larry Page has tried it. Jeff Bezos has tried it. Tech billionaires Larry Ellison and Peter Thiel have tried it.

Now the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has about as much money as all of them put together, is going to try it. The Saudi royal family has started a not-for-profit organization called the Hevolution Foundation. It plans to spend up to $1 billion per year of its oil wealth supporting basic research on the biology of aging and finding ways to extend the number of years people live in good health.

The sum, if the Saudis spend it, could make the Gulf state the largest single sponsor of researchers attempting to understand the underlying causes of aging—and how it might be slowed down with drugs. Former Mayo Clinic endocrinologist Mehmood Khan says, “Our primary goal is to extend the period of healthy lifespan. There is not a bigger medical problem on the planet than this one.”

Khan says the fund is authorized to spend up to $1 billion per year indefinitely. By comparison, the division of the US National Institute on Aging spends about $325 million a year on the biology of aging.

The Saudi government may be partially motivated by the belief that diseases of aging pose a specific threat to that country’s future. There is evidence that people living in the Gulf states “are aging faster biologically than they are chronologically.”

Basically, the country is being beset by diseases of affluence brought on by rich diets and too little exercise. Even though Saudi Arabia has a relatively young population, with a median age of around 31, it is experiencing increasing rates of obesity and diabetes.

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