MICHAEL WEST got talking to a guy next to him on an aeroplane. “The man asked what I did and I told him,” says West. The man seemed impressed and West continued, thinking he had a friendly audience. “But after a while he said: ‘You’re lying to me. I read everything and I’ve never heard any of this. This is so amazing and so revolutionary that if it was true, I would know about it already’.”
The unbelievable story that West told his neighbour was about the science of ageing. An account of how biologists had finally figured out what causes us to grow old and die, and how biotechnologists like him – he founded biotech firm Geron in 1990 – were closing in on a cure. A cure for ageing.
West realised his life’s work had an image problem. “Rejuvenation, age reversal – I completely believe it is possible,” he says. But “the gap between what scientists know and what even the educated public knows is huge.”
Make no mistake: you are going to want to know about this. In a few weeks, an anti-ageing pill will be launched. In a few years, the first scientifically validated anti-ageing drugs could be on the market. Biotech companies are springing up to commercialise discoveries, and investors are betting serious money on what many predict will become the biggest industry of all time. As somebody who is approaching 50, I want to know about it too. The wrinkling, sagging and greying that are the outward manifestations of my inner decay are …