Rewriting Life

The SENS Challenge: The Judges

We’ve picked the judges for our biogerontology prize.

In July 2005, Technology Review announced a prize for any molecular biologist working in the field of aging who could successfully meet the following challenge: demonstrate that SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), Aubrey de Grey’s prescription for defeating aging, is so wrong that it is unworthy of learned debate. We pledged to pay $10,000 to the authors of a winning submission. Not to be upstaged, The Methuselah Foundation, an organization founded by de Grey and devoted to promoting anti-aging science, pledged an additional $10,000 to anyone who meets the requirements of the challenge.

We also pledged to form an independent panel to judge the submissions, and there we had some difficulty. The prize has languished, not for a shortage of submissions, but because we wanted to assemble a suitably distinguished group of judges.

Today, we’re able to announce the panel:

Rodney Brooks, PhD, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and chief technical officer of iRobot Corp. IRobot is one of the most successful makers of robots in the world.

Anita Goel, MD and PhD, founder and chief executive of Nanobiosym.

Vikram Kumar, MD, cofounder and chief executive of Dimagi, and a pathologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Nathan Myhrvold, PhD, cofounder and chief executive of Intellectual Ventures, and former chief technologist at Microsoft.

J. Craig Venter, PhD, founder of the Venter Institute. Venter developed the process called whole-genome shotgun sequencing, which sped up the human genome project.

The Terms of the SENS Challenge
1. The Challenge is open to any molecular biologist with a PhD from a recognized academic institution who is now associated with a recognized research institution and who has published on biogerontology in peer-reviewed journals. Technology Review will rule on whether a given individual can enter the Challenge.

2. The purpose of the Challenge is to establish whether SENS is worthy of serious consideration. Submissions are sought that attempt to demonstrate that it is not.

3. Submissions will be judged by a review panel, entirely independent of Technology Review and The Methuselah Foundation, composed of recognized molecular biologists, clinicians, and engineers. The members of the panel will be announced (see list above).

4. Aubrey De Grey will reply to all submissions. The submitting scientist may respond. All three documents will be considered by the panel.

5. The initial Challenge prize fund of $20,000 will be paid with $10,000 from Technology Review and $10,000 from The Methuselah Foundation.

6. Anyone who wishes to add to the Challenge prize fund may do so. They should contact Jason Pontin, editor in chief of Technology Review, at

7. The form of the submission must be an abstract of no more than 750 words, although the main text, including footnotes, citations, and references, can be any length.

8. The most interesting submission, regardless of whether or not it has won, will be published in the May/June 2006 issue of Technology Review, along with de Grey’s response.

9. All submissions should be sent to editor-in-chief Jason Pontin, at

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