“[Food and Drug Administration] requirements force individuals or companies to conduct rigorous scientific research to demonstrate that the claims they’re making are, in fact, supported by scientific evidence,” she says. Without those, we’d end up in a world where companies can make up any old claims about their products, she warns. We wouldn’t know which would work, and people could lose trust in the field more generally.
“Should companies be able to distribute products without evidence that their products work for medical uses?” she says. “My answer is no.” At any rate, the problems faced by those developing longevity drugs go way beyond regulation, she says: “These are just difficult scientific and medical problems.”
Christensen acknowledges other potential problems with lifting regulations. “If you lower the bar [of evidence], the logical conclusion is that you’ll see more adverse events … more potential deaths from these things,” he says. He also points out that even if a drug did go through some kind of fast-tracked trial in a longevity state, it might not be accepted by other jurisdictions—including the major worldwide players like Europe and the federal government of the US.
A home in Rhode Island?
Exactly where a longevity state might be developed is currently being worked out. The backers, Ion suggests, could take their lead from the founders of Próspera—a crypto city set up in a special economic zone in Honduras, designed to offer companies a low-tax environment with “innovation-friendly” regulations. Zuzalu’s organizers have been in talks with politicians in Montenegro, where they are exploring the possibility of creating a similar long-term home for pro-longevity devotees.
“Basically what we’re trying to do is get people to take proactive political action, which could include relocation to, potentially, certain states and jurisdictions around the world, so you can vote and transform the policies of the state to benefit all the people within that state,” Cheng said.
He also raised the possibility of setting up a longevity state in the US, since the country is home to plenty of longevity supporters and biotech companies that might not be willing to move internationally. Specifically, he has his sights set on Rhode Island. It’s close to Boston, a well-established biotech hub. And it has a small population. If enough people who believed in his moral philosophy moved there, they could have enough voting power to influence mayoral and state elections, he said. “Five to ten thousand people—that’s all we need,” he told the attendees.
But the structure of the US government might complicate the plan. “No state can eliminate federal law,” says Zettler. “It’s not as though Rhode Island can exempt individuals … from the requirements of the FDA.” That’s one reason why other attendees suggested the new state be located somewhere in Latin America, such as Costa Rica. The week after I left, Montenegro’s prime minister was due to arrive at Zuzalu. Some planned to discuss the idea of a longevity state there, during “Montenegro Day.”
Whatever the outcome of Zuzalu, it was certainly a fascinating event that has brought together a diverse group of people to bat about some bold ideas. During my brief visit, I heard people propose everything from longevity fashion brands to cryonics.
Deigin told me that for him, a highlight was “living among people who are your tribe.” Another attendee, who had already been there for six weeks when I spoke to him, likened Zuzalu to a religion. The organizers hope to plan other, similar gatherings in the future. Whether any result in a new state for life-extending drugs, we’ll have to wait and see.