top of page

Global Healthspan Summit – a paradigm shift in ageing

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Across the world people are living longer. The large reduction in child mortality has played an important role in our increased life expectancy but improved working conditions, reduced smoking rates and better healthcare have all contributed to our longer lives. While lifespans have increased, the number of years a person lives in good health, has remained stagnant and even declined. By 2050 the global population over 60 years old is set to double to 2 billion people.

Moderating at the inaugural edition of the Global Healthspan Summit in Riyadh, I was struck by the sense of urgency to tackle the challenges our ageing population will bring. 120 speakers from top universities, medical institutions, governments, finance, international organisations and the private sector as well as 2000 delegates conversed about how to foster healthy longevity or healthspan. In other words, developing multiple non-communicable diseases and decreased resilience to external stresses does not have to be inevitable as you grow older.

Hevolution Foundation, the sponsors of the Summit, aims to increase the number of ageing related treatments on the market, accelerate drug development and increase the accessibility of therapeutics that extend healthy lifespan.

Biologists are looking at the mechanisms of ageing itself with a view to finding ways to repair and renew your cells. There are promising candidates out there. Metformin, a commonly prescribed drug for diabetes may be able to improve healthspan in healthy individuals. Rapamycin, a natural compound used as an immunosuppressant in organ transplants has been shown to slow the ageing process in mice. In addition, researchers are testing a class of drug called senolytics which clear out the senescent or zombie cells that are linked to age related diseases.

However, the science is still in its infancy, until recently investment has been slow and regulators who approve medicines do not yet have a category to approve anti-aging therapeutics.

But Hevolution has big ambitions to change that.  Together with the XPRIZE Foundation it used the Summit to announce the biggest XPRIZE in history: $101 million dollars to enable teams around the world to compete in a 7-year global competition to develop therapeutics that support healthier aging.

Hevolution also announced an innovative global partnership with $10 million in base funding which will provide mentorship and capital to 10-12 potential companies working on breakthroughs in healthspan.

Some question Hevolution’s vision, pointing out that quality healthcare in much of the world is the prerogative of the rich and that scientific advances to increase healthspan will not be available to the global majority.

But Hevolution insists its mission is to improve the lives of everyone including those in low- and middle-income countries where two thirds of the global population of over sixties will live in 2050. It says the Summit is a pivotal step in transcending cultural and geographical boundaries to enhance the quality of life of people across the globe.

The stellar array of health leaders, pharmaceutical executives, policymakers, academics, entrepreneurs and leading geoscientists gathered in Riyadh was testimony to the convening power of the Summit.  Delegates inspired by what they had heard compared the collective ambition as a movement that will transform the way we view and experience ageing.


bottom of page