Inventor of GWG Life Epigenetic Technology Wins $1.5MM Prize

Dr. Steven Horvath, the inventor of the DNA methylation technology GWG Life has licensed to help determine life expectancy, has been awarded a $1.5 million prize by the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group.

Horvath, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), joins four other scientific teams in earning the prize which is aimed to boost early-stage studies that have the potential to yield medical breakthroughs.

“It’s part of Paul Allen’s growing commitment to the idea that this is the century of bioscience,” Tom Skalak, executive director of the Seattle-based Frontiers Group, told GeekWire. Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft, launched the Frontiers Group last year with a $100 million commitment.

GWGH, the parent of GWG Life, licensed the technology in May to apply it to its life insurance secondary market business and beyond. The company has taken several steps to make this a reality:

  • In January, GWGH hired Dr. Brian Chen, the first author of Horvath’s breakthrough research papers, to lead development of the technology; and
  • in February, GWG Life began collecting saliva samples from applicants who have submitted their life insurance policies.
  • In May, it executed the exclusive license for insurance and related products from UCLA.
UCLA professor Dr. Steven Horvath

With the award, Horvath will seek to enhance the clock so that it becomes a universal measure of aging across different species. Such a clock could point to strategies for slowing the aging process.

The other Allen award winners were:

  • Fei Chen of the Broad Institute, and Jason Buenrostro of the Broad Institute and Harvard
  • Jan Ellenberg of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, and Ralf Jungmann of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry and LMU Munich
  • Charles Gersbach of Duke University
  • Rachel Whitaker of the University of Illinois
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