Quest For Immortality
Business Today|October 20, 2019
The super-rich are pumping enormous amounts of money into research that will extend life– and keep death at bay for a long, long time…
E. Kumar Sharma

In the book of Immortality, Canadian author and musician Adam Leith Gollner narrates that Oracle Founder, Larry Ellison, “has vowed to defeat mortality”. He then goes on to quote El-lison’s biographer, Mark Wilson, “Part of Larry... is saying if he’s smart enough, he should be able to beat (death). Death is just another kind of corpo-rate opponent that he can outfox.” In Ellison’s own words, “Death has never made any sense to me. How can a person be there and then just vanish, just not be there? Clearly the reason they’re not there is they’re off doing something else... Death makes me very angry.”

This feeling of anger and frustration is not new. The super-rich have chased immortality for millenniums as it is one thing that wealth cannot buy. Defying old age and death has fascinated the human race from the days of the Puranas. One could never forget the legend of King Yayati whose son Puru gave him the gift of youth for a thousand years. In ancient Egypt, the bodies of the royalty were preserved for an equally enjoyable afterlife. In medieval Europe, alchemists swindled aristocrats by assuring eternal life. Even now, the ultra-rich, with all their superyachts, supercars, private jets, personal trainers and celebrity chefs, are heavily investing in enterprises focussed on finding physical immortality. The hunt for amrita will always be arduous.

Tech titans of the 21st century think other-wise. For instance, Ellison Medical Founda-tion gives out more than $40 million a year for longevity and anti-ageing research, according to Gollner. The amount is almost seven times more than the US venture capitalist Paul Glenn’s average contribution to this cause. Glenn supports gerontology research across Ivy League institutions – Harvard, Princeton, MIT and Stanford. He has also donated to Virginia-based not-for-profit Methuselah Foundation. Set up by David Gobel and Dr Aubrey de Grey in 2001, the biomedical charity was named after Methuselah, the grandfather of Noah, whose life span was said to be 969 years. Its aim: Making 90 the new 50 by 2030.

The list of billionaire age-warriors is quite long. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, PayPal Cofounder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel, Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos and Google Co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have all declared war on death by throwing millions at immortality research and anti-ageing solutions. According to an article published in The Guardian in February, Brin and Page are betting big on Calico, a health venture that apparently aims to ‘solve death’. On the other hand, Bezos and Thiel have backed Unity Biotechnology that hopes to combat the effects of ageing.

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