Harvard Hooey

June 4, 2008


Well, Daddy used to always say, “Son, you ain’t gonna get old being no dang fool.” Leave it to the Harvard Medical School to say Daddy had it all wrong – maybe.

Did you see this latest hype spreading faster than kudzu on an outta gas ditched SUV? Sonofa… Dr. John David Sinclair of Harvard Medical announced that Ponce de Leon, had it all wrong in that fountain of youth foray through Florida. Yup. According to “Doc” Sinclair and his team of “researchers,” the magic elixir is indeed that resveratrol stuff found in red wine, and is much more potent than previously thought in extending the human lifespan. Man…did you ever want to scream and a yawn came out instead? Dog, I just did. “Must be getting old, pass me that bottle, son.”

Listen…old age and/or the lack of retirement fundage got you bummed? Take note of this statement made yesterday by Doctor Sinclair; “The upside (anti-aging pharma) is so huge that, if we are right, the company that dominates the sirtuin space could dominate the pharmaceutical industry and change medicine.” WoW! “Where’s my broker? Pass me that phone, son.”

Quick science lesson, sans the Harvard hooey. Resveratrol, Sirtuin – they’re enzymes. Enzymes are everywhere and are present in all proteins. Enzymes are catalysts, and catalysts make things happen – faster and slower. Be a catalyst. Blow on wet paint, hot air makes it dry faster, or makes you think so anyway. (Hot air has lots of uses). You are mostly protein, Daddy was, and so was Ponce de Leon, and even some paints. Gah.

Anyhow, earlier studies on mice showed that if you stuffed them full of that red wine resveratrol stuff, they ran like crazy on treadmills until they dropped – cool. Thirsty now? The study concluded you will need 100 bottles of red wine a day to achieve the same result, desired or otherwise. Imagine that, and hangover for a sec. Dr. Sinclair and his cracker-jackers feel that human sirtuins can be activated with doses far smaller than 100 bottles of wine on the wall, regardless of how tempted you or the mice may be. Convenient, no?

So, here we go, again, with the fountain of youth – in a pill. If you thought Dr. Sullivan’s afore-quoted statement was a bit forward looking, consider GlaxoSmithKline on Monday paid $22.50 a share, cash money, that’s $720 million USD for Sirtris, the company getting involved in all this anti-aging, drunk rodent shizz. Oh, and yeah, Sirtris was a bio-startup founded in 2004 by – Doc Sullivan, taken public by J.P. Morgan, et. al., at $11.00. “Pass me those peppermints, son, I feel a case of the vapors comin’ on.”

Here’s where my scream/yawn kicked-in. Do the math. 100 bottles a day of drinkable Cab X $10.00 X 365 = $365,000.00 a year, which means my 401K, which has already taken a youthful leap backward to a leaner 101K, will be gone in mere months. So much for the re-boom for this baby. But, there is good news that won’t that won’t deplete your retirement coin, nor force you into a twelve step AA exorcise regimen. Ready? Turns out these possibly anti-aging enzymes found in red wine are also abundant in a likewise abundant plant known as Japanese Knotweed. This pest of a plant, like the enzymes in it, is everywhere. It’s a huge growing weed, particularly invasive, and I have found that you can’t kill it, even with gasoline, the cost of which, is driving us to not drive, but drink instead.

While we’re on the subjects of old age and drinking, did you happen to notice that Dr. Sullivan’s mega-bucks, now sold company, “Sirtris,” is a palindrome? This guy is good, and like the name, really does have Wall Street types coming and going around, just like test rodents. This, after all, is the same Doc Sullivan and the same Harvard Medical School that gave us the “Sullivan Method” for treating alcoholism, through ingredients prevalent in another nasty and invasive plant – kudzu. Yep. they found that if you ingested enough of this stuff, you wouldn’t want to drink as much. The medical community has been less than impressed with the dearth of results from this years old “kudzu-kure” treatment of the disease of alcoholism, so it follows, neither are drug manufacturers, Wall Streeters, or drinkers, for that matter.

I will, however, give Dr. Sullivan, Harvard, Wall Street, and GSK kudos for going after the age-old and pesky problem of getting aged. While getting older may resemble a disease for many, it’s not recognized as such by the FDA or medical community, both make or break drug marketing catalysts, and people have been buying the fountain of youth jag since long before Ponce de Leon. Ponce, alas, never found his quest, but lived to be 60, considered extraordinary for a man of some 600 years ago. So, who knows. If nothing else, maybe we are on the cusp of the eradication of knotweed and kudzu, and God only knows what’s under all that yuk.


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