XPRIZE Healthspan: Revolutionizing Human Aging & Healthspan with Dr. Jamie Justice

By Longevity by Design, March 20, 2024

Header Image_1834x800 (4)

Listen to this episode of Longevity by Design on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts

Can we find ways to target human aging and extend healthspan? This ambitious premise is at the heart of XPRIZE Healthspan, a 7-year, $101 million global competition with an audacious challenge: to successfully develop a proactive, accessible therapeutic that restores muscle, cognitive, and immune function by a minimum of 10 years, with a goal of 20 years, in persons aged 65-80 years, in one year or less.

In this episode of Longevity by Design, hosts Ashley Reaver and Dr. Gil Blander spoke with Dr. Jamie Justice, Executive Vice President of the Health Domain at XPRIZE, and Executive Director of XPRIZE Healthspan. The conversation sheds light on the emerging scientific evidence and paradigm-shifting concept for therapeutic interventions to extend healthspan and lifespan by targeting aging, rather than one age-related disease at a time. Dr. Justice also discusses her career journey and the XPRIZE Healthspan competition, in which she is leading international networks to drive innovative solutions to improve human health and aging that is affordable and accessible to all.

The conversation also explores the intersection of art and science in Dr. Justice's work. She emphasizes the role of creativity in scientific discovery, suggesting that a holistic approach is essential for groundbreaking achievements in aging research. The episode wraps up with Dr. Justice emphasizing a holistic approach for good health. This episode is a must-listen for anyone interested in aging and healthspan and the innovative work being done by XPRIZE.



Episode highlights

  • Introduction: 00:00-02:08
  • What led Dr. Jamie Justice to become a scientist?: 02:09-06:53
  • How did Dr. Jamie Justice get interested in aging, healthspan, and longevity research?: 06:54-13:11
  • What kind of research did Dr. Jamie Justice do before becoming the EVP of the Health Domain at XPRIZE?: 13:12-26:06
  • What is XPRIZE? What is the mission of XPRIZE? Why did Dr. Jamie Justice join XPRIZE?: 26:07-35:35
  • What is XPRIZE Healthspan?: 35:36-45:42
  • How is XPRIZE uniquely positioned to advance and facilitate innovative solutions to improve human health and aging?: 45:43-49:52
  • What are the phases of XPRIZE Healthspan?: 49:53-56:03
  • Who can apply to be in the XPRIZE Healthspan competition?: 56:04-58:52
  • What kind of trial designs does the XPRIZE Healthspan competition allow?: 58:53-01:02:36
  • How is the winner of XPRIZE Healthspan decided?: 01:02:37-01:04:57
  • Dr. Jamie Justice’s top tip for improving health: 01:04:58-01:07:46

About Jamie Justice, Ph.D.

Dr. Jamie Justice is the Executive Vice President of the Health Domain at XPRIZE and Executive Director of XPRIZE Healthspan, and an Adjunct Professor in Internal Medicine Section on Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, and Sticht Center on Healthy Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention at Wake Forest University School of Medicine (WFUSM).

Dr. Justice is dedicated to Geroscience research that advances the hypothesis that by targeting the basic biology of aging the incidence of multiple age-related diseases can be delayed or prevented. Her training background at University of Colorado Boulder and WFUSM allowed her to lead translational research and clinical trials networks to test the Geroscience hypothesis in humans. 

In her role as Executive Director of XPRIZE Healthspan, she leads international networks to drive innovative solutions to improve human health and aging that is affordable and accessible to all. XPRIZE is an established global leader in designing, launching, and executing large scale competitions to solve humanity’s greatest challenges. 


Dr. Jamie Justice's journey into aging research and the emerging field of geroscience

Dr. Jamie Justice's path to pioneering aging research was not her initial career plan. She initially went to college on an art scholarship, but her love of the science of health and wellness led her to make the change into this area of study instead. Dr. Justice discusses her early career, starting with her work with endurance athletes and masters athletes, sparking her interest in aging. This transitioned into a fascination with aging biology, especially after engaging with older adults and animals in research settings. A pivotal moment was a lecture featuring Leonard Hayflick and Tom Johnson, presenting contrasting views on aging as a stochastic process versus the existence of "gerontogenes" that influence lifespan, which profoundly influenced her career path towards geroscience.

"It was the first time I'd had it put this way…can you actually do something if aging is not just a stochastic process? I needed to go home….to sit down and think about what actually causes aging, how and why does it happen? If there's…[an underlying] biology that can be manipulated, maybe there is [hope for therapeutics]," said Dr. Justice

This perspective catalyzed Dr. Justice's involvement in the emerging field of geroscience—which seeks to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for aging as a major driver of common chronic conditions and diseases of older people. By understanding the underlying biology and key hallmarks of aging, therapeutic interventions can be used to target aging and improve healthspan and lifespan—a paradigm-shifting concept rather than the current medical model of waiting for age-related diseases to develop and treat one disease at a time.

Dr. Justice’s aging and geroscience research has spanned animal models, biomarker development, and early human trials aimed at understanding how targeting fundamental biological aging processes could impact healthspan and lifespan. However, translating geroscience insights into approved clinical applications is challenging. Dr. Justice's work contributed to efforts like the TAME (Targeting Aging with Metformin) trial, aimed at creating an FDA-approved regulatory pathway for treating aging itself as an indication.


BloodDNAFitnessTracking_eBook_LP_1920x1080 copy

The XPRIZE Healthspan Competition

Dr. Justice’s research and efforts in translating geroscience insights into clinical trials led her to be headhunted and recruited for the role of Executive Director of XPRIZE Healthspan to spearhead the unprecedented global competition. Her additional role as Executive Vice President of the Health Domain extends beyond the XPRIZE Healthspan competition to set strategic priorities to catalyze innovations needed to overcome barriers in biomedical sciences and improve health for all.

XPRIZE is a non-profit with the mission to democratize innovation by incentivizing crowd-sourced, scientifically viable solutions to create a more equitable and abundant future for all. XPRIZE uses public prize competitions to drive innovations in areas like space exploration, environmental conservation, and now, human healthspan and aging. 

XPRIZE Healthspan is a 7-year, $101 million global competition to revolutionize the way we approach human aging. Traditional medicine focuses on treating symptoms of injury, illness, or disease once they develop. This reactive system extends life, but doesn’t proactively improve health, leaving millions grappling with poor quality of life and related economic challenges in their later years.  XPRIZE Healthspan aims to drive innovative solutions for a proactive therapeutic that reduces the risk of chronic age-related diseases, increases human healthspan, and extends quality of life well into our later years, and is affordable and accessible to all.

Teams competing in XPRIZE Healthspan must successfully develop a proactive, accessible therapeutic that restores muscle, cognitive, and immune function by a minimum of 10 years, with a goal of 20 years, in persons aged 65-80 years, in one year or less.


Defining healthspan endpoints

Importantly, the endpoints for this competition are focused on healthspan, not lifespan, because an intervention assessing lifespan in humans is extremely difficult to do and impossible in a one-year trial. For this reason, the primary endpoints chosen, physical, cognitive, and immune function, all directly impact people’s healthspan and quality of life and, importantly, can be assessed with a one-year trial.

"We want to be able to live within the years that we have. Not just walk around the grocery store, but remember what we're there to get. Engage with kids and grandkids. Have the resilience to meet challenges," said Dr. Justice.

While simple in principle, quantifying changes in physical, cognitive, and immune function that translate to meaningful impacts on healthspan is challenging. The XPRIZE team is working to set clear benchmarks and provide training to competitors on validated tests and clinical study protocols.


The scientific opportunity

More than just a competition, XPRIZE Healthspan represents a massive scientific resource and open innovation platform. With potentially dozens of therapeutic approaches tested in rigorous trials in humans, along with centralized biospecimen analysis, the initiative offers an unprecedented biobank and data repository within a collaborative ecosystem.

The competition has an open, team-based structure. Applications are welcomed from any type of group or organization interested, and all possible therapeutics, such as, but not limited to, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, lifestyle interventions, combination treatments, digital health applications, etc. After an initial qualifying round, up to 40 of the best applications will be chosen as semi-finalists, with each team receiving $250,000 to help conduct short-term proof-of-concept studies. Up to  10 of the best teams will then progress to the final, with each team receiving $1 million to help conduct the pivotal 1-year trial phase.

"It's like a big blank Christmas tree that we're inviting people to come hang their scientific ornaments on. Whether it's a biomarker, device, therapeutic, or trial design innovation, there's an opportunity to validate and advance your approach here," says Dr. Justice.

By fostering this global network of competitors and an engaged partner ecosystem, XPRIZE aims to nurture a new coordinated push toward translating aging science.


Democratizing aging research: inviting public insight and engagement

A standout aspect of XPRIZE Healthspan’s approach, as highlighted by Dr. Justice, is transparency and its openness to public engagement and comment in defining the research agenda. 

"We're really encouraging anybody to submit ideas, poke holes, and suggest improvements. This is the process of making the science and the field together," said Dr. Justice

This inclusive strategy allows scientists, clinicians, and laypeople to contribute ideas and perspectives on what matters most in aging research. By fostering a collaborative environment, XPRIZE aims to standardize and refine the ways we understand, measure, and intervene in the aging process. This democratization of science encourages a broader discussion about aging, its impact on society, and the collective effort needed to tackle its challenges.


Top tip for healthspan

Dr. Justice emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach to health, including a healthy diet, exercise, social connections, and having fun. 

“Do the boring, great things you already know you're supposed to be doing: diet, exercise,  engage people that you love. Have fun… we're alive, and it's incredible…enjoy it. I don't think we take quite enough time to just really appreciate that living is a gift—that's one way to maximize the time we have,” says Dr. Justice.

Similar Longevity By Design episodes we think you would love: 



Longevity by Design

Longevity by Design is a podcast for individuals looking to experience longer, healthier lives. In each episode, Dr. Gil Blander and Ashley Reaver join an industry expert to explore a personalized health journey. The show helps you access science-backed information, unpack complicated concepts, learn what’s on the cutting edge of longevity research and the scientists behind them. Tune into Longevity by Design and see how to add years to your life, and life to your years.

8 Ways to Biohack Your Health

Free eBook


New call-to-action