The Mprize

Many of us have heard about the X-Prize, but what about the Mprize?

The Methuselah Foundation’s The Methuselah Mouse Prize, known as the MPrize, is one of a growing number of prizes that have been created in recent years to stimulate innovation. In this case, the Mprize seeks to promote research that will curtail or even reverse the aging process. Specially, the Mprize rewards the producer of the world’s oldest ever mouse. The creators of the prize believe this will yield insights into interventions that will help humans.

The funding of the prize is not from a single individual or donor, but from anyone who wants to contribute, including many individuals who make both large and small pledges that are collected over time. The amount of the pledges are now over $4 million, and growing.

The Mprize is the brainchild of Aubrey de Grey, an eccentric researcher from Cambridge University. [See: Sherwin Nuland, “Do You Want to Live Forever? Aubrey de Grey thinks he knows how to defeat aging. He’s brilliant, but is he nuts?,” MIT’s Technology Review. February 2005].

From the MPrize Web site:

Longevity Prize

The Longevity Prize is won whenever the world record lifespan for a mouse of the species most commonly used in scientific work, Mus musculus, is exceeded.

The amount won by a winner of the Longevity Prize is in proportion to the size of the fund at that time, but also in proportion to the margin by which the previous record is broken. The precise formula is:

Previous record: X days
New record: X+Y days
Longevity Prize fund contains: $Z at noon GMT on day of death of record-breaker
Winner receives: $Z x (Y/(X+Y))

Thus, hypothetically, if the new record is twice the previous one, the winner receives half the fund. If the new record is 10% more than the old one, the winner receives 1/11 of the fund. The fund can thus never be exhausted, and the incentive to break the new record remains intact indefinitely. This is very different from a structure that specifies a particular mouse age at which the whole fund is awarded. We believe this to be a very important difference: public attention will be best engaged and maintained by a steady stream of record-breaking events that demonstrate scientists are taking progressively better control of the aging process.

The developers of a record-breaking intervention will receive prize money every week from the point at which their oldest living mouse beat the previous record. The amount paid each week will be calculated as though their mouse had just died, and the total amount won so far by a living record-breaker will be prominently displayed on the Mprize web site.

Rejuvenation Prize

The Rejuvenation Prize rewards successful late-onset interventions and has been instituted so as to satisfy two shortcomings of the Longevity Prize: first, that it is of limited scientific value to focus on a single mouse (a statistical outlier), and second, that the most important end goal is to promote the development of interventions to restore youthful physiology, not merely to extend life. Thus, the Rejuvenation Prize rules are as follows:

1) The Rejuvenation Prize is awarded not for an individual mouse but for a published, peer-reviewed study. The study must satisfy the following criteria:

The treated and control groups must have consisted of at least 20 mice each

The intervention must have commenced at an age at least half of the eventual mean age at death of the longest-lived 10% of the control group.

The treated mice must have been assessed for at least five different markers that change significantly with age in the controls, and there must be a statistically significant reversal in the trajectory of those five markers in the treated mice at some time after treatment began versus some time before it began. The experimenters select the comparison times, both before and after. It is acceptable for other markers to fail to show this reversal.

2) The record that the next winner must beat is the mean age at death of the longest-lived 10% of the treated group.

Conveniently, the Rejuvenation Prize does not require the same rigorous validation procedures as the Longevity Prize, because the age involved is defined to be that reported in the publication of the study.

The amount won by a successful new Rejuvenation Prize record is calculated in the same way as for the Longevity Prize, but is only awarded upon publication of the study in question. As for the Longevity Prize, if the new record – the mean age at death of the longest-lived 10% of the treated group – is twice the previous one, the winner receives half the fund. If the new record is 10% more than the old one, the winner receives 1/11 of the fund.

A Footnote on Nomenclature and History

During 2003 and 2004 the Longevity Prize had a couple of other names. It was known as the Biology Prize or the Postponement Prize, but its structure and rules have not changed. The present Rejuvenation Prize is the successor to a prize that was variously termed the Medicine Prize, the Treatment Prize and the Reversal Prize, and which had a different set of rules aimed at promoting work on late-onset interventions.