Companies seeking a cure for old age

When Nir Barzilai specialised in anti-ageing science 30 years ago, it was an act of hope. Now, the Israeli-American scientist believes the world is on the cusp of turning hope into reality, finding transformational drugs that prevent the effects of ageing that used to be viewed as inevitable.

“We are done with hope and promise. We are at the point between having promise and realising it”, says the director of the Institute for Aging Research at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

He plans to run a huge flagship trial to test whether a cheap generic diabetes drug — metformin — can extend lifespan by years, after a promising UK study of real world patients.

If regulators approve metformin to target ageing, he believes large pharmaceutical companies and biotechs would jump into the “longevity” field. “Once we prove it, I think it will be an earth-shattering moment for everyone”, he says.