NAM launches new competition seeking breakthrough innovations to extend human life

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM), in collaboration with eight global organizations representing more than 40 countries and territories, announced today the launch of the Healthy Longevity Global Competition, a multiyear, multimillion-dollar international competition seeking breakthrough innovations to extend human health and function later in life.

Dramatic advances in medicine and public health have resulted in unprecedented extensions of the human lifespan across the world over the past century. By 2050, people over age 65 will number over 1.6 billion, accounting for 20 percent of the global population - more than double the number today. Coupled with declining fertility rates, however, this demographic shift presents many challenges to economic and workforce stability, health care systems, and rural and urban communities, which may result in older people experiencing lower quality well-being during a longer lifespan.

However, if global societies embrace strategies to maximize healthy longevity, the aging population presents a tremendous opportunity, rather than a burden. Extending good health and productivity would allow older people to remain active contributors to the economy, their communities, and families and reduce their overall need for social and health care services. Interdisciplinary research and innovation are urgently needed globally to generate important advances and breakthroughs that can help aging global populations achieve healthy longevity.

The Healthy Longevity Global Competition is conceptualized, founded, and coordinated internationally by the NAM. At its annual meeting, the NAM launched the competition simultaneously today with eight global collaborator organizations, including Academia Sinica of Taiwan; Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences; EIT Health; Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development; Ministry of Health and National Research Foundation of Singapore; UK Research and Innovation; and the National Institute on Aging, U.S. National Institutes of Health. Innovators from over 40 countries and territories will have the opportunity to compete for the awards.

The competition calls on teams and individuals of any background -- including biomedical sciences, technology and engineering, social sciences, financing, and beyond -- to submit bold, innovative ideas, with the goal of extending the human healthspan. The competition seeks to amass a diverse portfolio of ideas, focusing on areas such as disease prevention and interception, molecular pathways, mobility, functionality, social connectedness, and more.

The global competition model is uniquely capable of activating innovation and stimulating breakthroughs. It can energize thousands of scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs globally to focus on a challenge in a concentrated timespan and generate a wide variety of bold ideas across many disciplines. This wellspring of activity will build momentum around healthy longevity, create new markets, and ultimately lead to transformative innovations that will impact the lives of generations."

Victor J. Dzau, M.D., president of the NAM

The competition consists of three phases internationally:

  • Catalyst Phase

    Approximately 450 awards worth $50,000 USD each will be issued globally as seed funding to advance new, innovative ideas. The first cycle of the Catalyst Phase opens in January 2020, and applications will be accepted for approximately 6 weeks. Awardees will be invited to attend an annual Innovator Summit - the first of which is set for summer 2021 -- to share their work with policymakers, researchers, potential investors, and fellow innovators from around the world.

  • Accelerator Phase

    Awards worth $500,000 to $1 million USD or more will be issued to meritorious Catalyst awardees who have demonstrated significant progress, in order to support the further advancement of their bold ideas (starting in 2021).

  • Grand Prize

    One or more grand prize(s) of up to $5 million USD will be awarded for achievement of a breakthrough innovation that extends the human healthspan (starting in 2023).

To establish the Health Longevity Global Competition, the NAM received foundational support from Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC; John and Valerie Rowe; United Therapeutics Corporation; and Anthony J. Yun, and Kimberly A. Bazar, in addition to commitments from the global collaborator organizations

In the United States, the NAM will issue up to 72 Catalyst Awards to U.S.-based applicants between 2020 and 2022, with support from Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC. In order to encourage bold ideas and go beyond the limitations of traditional research grants, the NAM Catalyst Award application requires only a two-page proposal that will be judged primarily on the basis of novelty and innovation, rather than pre-existing data, demonstrated work, institutional capabilities, or feasibility alone.

"At Johnson & Johnson, we're working to change the trajectory of health for humanity. In addition to developing effective treatments, our vision is to increasingly eliminate disease through prevention, disease interception in its earliest stages, and cures," said William N. Hait, M.D., Ph.D., global head of Johnson & Johnson External Innovation, Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC. "Our goals are closely aligned with the NAM's global competition. A great idea can come from anywhere, and we are proud to partner with the NAM to catalyze new cross-disciplinary ideas and innovation that we believe will ultimately lead to novel solutions for aging in freedom from debilitating disease."

In collaboration with the NAM, the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) will provide scientific review support for the implementation of the NAM Catalyst Awards. "AFAR is honored to contribute our expertise in grant making and developing extensive interdisciplinary networks in aging research to the Healthy Longevity Global Competition," said AFAR Executive Director Stephanie Lederman, Ed.M. "We commend the National Academy of Medicine's vision for fostering diverse, innovative approaches that stimulate great ideas, and transform the field of healthy longevity globally."

For detailed information on the funding available, participating countries and territories, application instructions, and eligibility requirements, visit HealthyLongevityChallenge.org. As part of the competition's commitment to share knowledge and stimulate an entire field by not only rewarding innovative ideas but also sharing those ideas with the world, summaries of all winning ideas will be available on this website starting in summer 2020. More information about the Accelerator Phase, including participating organizations, as well as the Grand Prize(s) opportunity, is forthcoming.

Part of the NAM's Healthy Longevity Global Grand Challenge, the competition will unfold in parallel with the NAM's Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity, an international, independent, and multidisciplinary initiative that will assess available evidence and recommend strategies for global societies to maintain and advance the health and productivity of aging populations.

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