Bill Faloon has pursued immortality for decades. Now he’s got lots of company. What does science have to say?

Is there any truth to anti-aging schemes?

On a Thursday evening in late January, the faithful gather. They trickle into the Church of Perpetual Life, about an hour’s drive north of Miami, until a throng of around 100 people cram around tables lining the first-floor hall of this renovated house of worship. Along one wall is a display of reading material: pamphlets on heart disease, flyers itemizing the additives in Cheez-Its and their detrimental health effects, a handbill about the Ms. Senior Florida pageant. On the other side of the room, there’s a snack buffet with beans, broccoli, carrots, cubed cheese, sliced meats, and olives. It’s easy to pick out the regulars, who mingle clutching biology textbooks or readily shaking hands.

Many of them pause to greet the diminutive man who is their host: Bill Faloon. Clean-shaven and youthfully slim in a dark suit, with jet-black hair and a formidably bridged nose, he is the church’s founder. Just yesterday, he laid out its gospel to me, saying, “We’re talking about immortality.” His followers, he says, are “people trying to live as long as possible, maybe even forever.”

At 63, Faloon is old enough to remember when such talk labeled you a kook or charlatan. In the late 1970s, he co-founded the Life Extension Foundation, a nonprofit promoting the notion that people don’t need to die—and later started a business to sell them the supplements and lab tests to help make that dream real. Nowadays he also distributes a magazine to 300,000 people nationwide and invites speakers to monthly gatherings at the church, billed as a science-based, nondenominational meeting place where supporters learn about the latest developments in the battle against aging. Their faith is in human technologies that might one day end involuntary death.

After an hour of mixing, we all head to the second-­floor nave and fill the pews for the evening’s event. Several rows back sits a beer scientist. Next to me, two women in dresses and heels. At the front, an elderly gentleman with hearing aids. Tonight’s speaker is Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist and chief science officer of SENS Research Foundation, a Mountain View, California, outfit that studies regenerative medicines that might cure diseases associated with old age.

De Grey’s startup reflects the rush of Big Tech money into this arena as the U.S. population ages. Baby boomers are retiring, and the Census Bureau estimates older people will outnumber children by 2035. Google launched Calico in 2013 to solve the challenges of aging and associated illnesses. Two years later, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, started the $3 billion Chan Zuckerberg Science program, whose lofty goals include curing all disease. And Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel invested in Unity Biotechnology, launched in 2016 to develop therapies for age-related ailments.

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