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The Fountain of Youth May Be Flooded With Oil Money From Saudi Arabia

The gulf nation is investing $1 billion in anti-aging research.

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People walk past a banner showing Saudi King Salman, right, and his Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, outside a mall in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.
Saudis want to live longer, healthier lives.
Photo: Amr Nabil (AP)

The obnoxiously affluent Saudi Arabia is trying to prove that maybe money can buy everything after all, pouring $1 billion a year into researching ways to slow down the effects of aging. The gulf state’s royal family started a non-profit organization that would grant funds to scientists to understand the underlying causes of aging, and how to mitigate them using drugs, according to the MIT Technology Review.

The Hevolution Foundation will look into biotech that could extend the number of years that people can enjoy a healthy lifespan, and delay the onset of certain diseases like diabetes or heart disease. There aren’t that many details on the work of the foundation yet, but it has been hinted at during several science conferences, according to MIT Technology Review.


One of the main scientists boasting about oil money funding potential anti-aging research is Nir Barzilai, the founding director of the Institute for Aging Research, who claims to have discovered a longevity gene in humans that is linked to healthy aging and longevity of human life. Barzilai has been seeking funding for his TAME study, targeting aging with Metformin, a medication for type 2 diabetes. Preliminary studies of Metformin on diabetics showed a potential correlation between the drug, and possible anti-aging compounds that may have caused the subjects to live longer than expected.

The TAME trial has been labeled as the first study of a drug to slow down aging in humans as the drug allegedly alters the aging process inside cells. A big claim, but TAME has struggled to find the funding to back up its claim. However, MIT Technology Review is also reporting that back in April, Barzilai told an audience in London that Hevolution had agreed to fund one-third of its cost


So, why is the oil-rich nation potentially funding the aging-mitigation drug trial? The residents of Saudi Arabia are suffering from high rates of obesity and diabetes, brought on by an inactive lifestyle and an exceptionally rich diet. Saudi Arabia ranks seventh in the world for the rate of diabetes. Around 7 million of Saudi’s population are diabetic and almost around 3 million have pre-diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. A 2021 study also revealed that Saudi Arabia’s aging population will increase drastically over the next few decades, with people in the gulf state suffering from high rates of frailty, or physiological decline.

Even if they were to discover the fountain of youth, or rather fund it, Saudi Arabia would still need to do a lot more to erase its contentious history marred by a bloody human rights record.