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$101M Challenge Seeks Healthy Aging Solutions

Aging couple, on a bench and in a wheelchair

(Bruno Aguirre, Unsplash.

29 Nov. 2023. A new challenge competition from XPrize calls for proactive and accessible health care solutions for improving the quality of life among older people worldwide. The XPrize Healthspan challenge, announced today at the Global Healthspan Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, expects to award up to $101 million to the winning entry, with pre-registration and public comment periods now open.

The XPrize Healthspan competition aims to close the gap between longer lifespans and the quality of life experienced by people as they age. While global life expectancy has increased in recent years, people in their later years are experience more chronic disease and disability, adding misery to their lives and trillions of dollars in health care costs for medical care. XPrize cites data showing the percentage of people worldwide age 60 and older is expected to double to 22 percent by 2050, creating an urgent need for healthier aging solutions.

The challenge is asking participants to design and develop treatments that restore muscle, brain, and immune functions lost to degradation from aging, in either a single therapeutic or combination of therapies. Proposed therapeutics should restore at least 10 years of functionality to older individuals, with an eventual goal of 20 years. The competition runs for seven years to 2030, to allow for development and clinical trials, but with intermediate milestone assessments and awards in 2025 and 2026.

XPrize is using a challenge to break through obstacles in health care innovation, such as arbitrary organizational or discipline silos, regulatory barriers, long development timetables particularly for clinical trials, lack of personalized options, and disparities in accessing new technologies. The competition organizers expect participating teams to propose solutions reflecting advances in health care science and technology from multiple fields.

Prize amounts scaled to longer restoration of functions

“By targeting aging with a single or combination of therapeutic treatments,” says founder and executive chairman Peter Diamandis in an XPrize statement, “it may be possible to restore function lost to age-related degradation of multiple organ systems.” Diamandis adds, “Converging exponential technologies such as A.I., epigenetics, gene therapy, cellular medicine, and sensors are allowing us to understand why we age. It’s time to revolutionize the way we age. Working across all sectors, we can democratize health and create a future where healthy aging is accessible for everyone and full of potential.”

XPrize plans to award prizes of $61 million to a team that develops one or more treatments restoring muscular, cognitive, and immune functions of 10 years, with a $71 million prize for restoring those functions to 15 years, and $81 million for a 20-year functional restoration. Winning teams are expected to deliver their proposed solutions in a year or less. Forty semi-finalists are expected to divide $10 million in prizes in 2025, with another $10 million in milestone prizes awarded to 10 finalists in 2026-27.

One of the challenge sponsors is Solve FSHD, a venture philanthropy and advocacy organization for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy or FSHD, a type of muscular dystrophy with progressive muscle degeneration and weakness, but no cure. Solve FSHD is offering a separate $10 million bonus award, in parallel with the main competition, for treatments that improve muscle functions in people with the disease for at least 10 years.

Preliminary XPrize Healthspan challenge guidelines are now available for download, with pre-registration and public comments taken through June 2024. Final guidelines and full registration is expected to begin in July 2024.

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