WHO head of aging and health to present at ARK event focused on the importance of data in the quest for improved longevity.
Tomorrow is the final day of Longevity Week, and the focus shifts to King’s College London for a one-day Innovations in Consumer Longevity Data conference. Hosted by Aging Research at King’s (ARK), the event includes sessions on the UK’s newly launched Open Life Data Framework, insurance and consumer goods innovations, global longevity initiatives, commercialisation of research and sources of R&D funding. Register to attend absolutely free here.
Longevity.Technology: While many longevity events focus on progress at a cellular or molecular level, this ARK conference is more focused on the crucial data analytics and business side of longevity. We caught up with ARK director Professor Richard Siow, to learn more about the focus of this year’s event.
ARK is a founding academic member of the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity, and the first session of the day will feature case studies from today’s launch of the Open Life Data Framework. Chaired by the APPG’s Tina Woods and Gavin Starks, CEO of the Open Data Institute, the session will reveal more about this important national initiative to facilitate combining health and non-health data securely to improve health for individuals and populations.
Following the initial Open Life Data Framework session, the conference will highlight the value of population wellness data for the insurance and consumer goods industries, and how these sectors are utilising advanced informatics and AI to implement healthy ageing and longevity concepts in their business strategies and academic research in longevity data aggregation and analysis.
The third session aims to showcase global longevity initiatives, including the International Institute of Longevity and the Longevity Medicine education to better use AI to maintain optimal performance through the life span, while the final session of the day focuses on the future of global longevity R&D funding, highlighting the healthy longevity initiatives of ARK’s global partners, including the University of Zurich and the National University of Singapore.
Tomorrow’s event is sponsored by the event is sponsored by the journal Frontiers in Ageing, which Siow says will be opening the call for participation to authors across all Longevity Week 2021 events to submit articles to its Specialty Section focusing on aging and healthy longevity.
WHO and Switzerland feature prominently
Before everything kicks off, delegates will be treated to a keynote lecture about the UN Decade of Healthy Aging, delivered by Dr Ritu Sadana, head of aging and health at the World Health Organization. While securing such a high profile speaker is clearly a coup, Siow explains that some recent developments at ARK have played a role, in particular a new partnership with the Healthy Longevity Innovation Cluster at University of Zurich, where he had a visiting academic position earlier this year.
“I was particularly impressed by Zurich because of their DynAge network which has aligned research strengths in data sciences and the psychology of healthy aging,” he says. “I also explored the longevity funding landscape in terms of charitable foundations, corporates and investors.”
Siow had long had an eye on Switzerland, not only for its globally recognised biotech sector, but also for the emergence of exciting longevity research companies like Rejuveron, Maximon and Centaura, not to mention the recently announced Longevity Science Foundation and the International Institute of Longevity, based in neighbouring Liechtenstein.
“So I decided to strengthen ARK’s activities with academia in Switzerland, and it just happened to coincide with Zurich building its Healthy Longevity Innovation Cluster, which has attracted funding from the Velux Foundation’s Healthy Aging initiative,” he says. “ Zurich is a coordinating centre for the WHO, which means horizon scanning across the world for healthy aging projects, and bringing like-minded academics, industry partners and funders together to coordinate with the WHO.”
Building links between academia and industry
The Healthy Longevity Innovation Cluster is one of four innovation clusters at the University of Zurich, along with life sciences, digitalisation and space.
“DynAge highlights the importance of data analytics – it’s not one size fits all, it’s personalised, it’s context specific, it’s across the life course,” says Siow. “And they wanted something more that really encompasses innovation, including engaging with industry. ARK activities align well because of our links with industry partners, especially consumer goods and insurance companies.”
Through his own work at ARK, Siow has formed links with large corporations like Unilever and Nestlé, as well as insurance companies such as Legal and General and AXA Health.
“The University of Zurich was interested in how they can get involved with this kind of innovation, bringing in not only the large corporates, but also to engage with SMEs,” he says. highlighting smaller Swiss companies that could be associated with the cluster, including consumer neuroscience firm IDUN Technologies and sleep tech company SleepLoop.
ARK and Zurich partner on aging
The formation of the partnership between the two universities was designed to foster greater collaboration on the mechanisms of aging, improving health-span and the social impact of aging – with the aim of ensuring best possible quality of life in old age. Siow has already linked the Zurich cluster with several key organisations to help broaden its reach into industries outside of academia.
“We’re also going to explore how the UK can link with the Swiss entities that know what they’re talking about and, more importantly, have the funding,” he adds. “There are a lot of investors and also charitable foundations, who are funding longevity research, such as the Longevity Science Foundation who are new and aim to invest a billion dollars over the 10 years.”
The British Embassy in Berne, together with their Science and Innovation Network and Department of International Trade teams are supporting this first UK-Swiss academic longevity partnership.ARK’s growing relationship with Switzerland is apparent throughout the programme of tomorrow’s Longevity Week conference, with presentations from University of Zurich professors Harald Gall and Mike Martin, but also with sessions from the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences and Garri Zmudze from Longevity Science Foundation.
Images courtesy of Prof Richard Siow