The Methuselah Foundation awards the Mprize for research in therapies that extend the life of the common house mouse, known scientifically as Mus musculus. The pot for this cash prize was $4 million in 2006 and it’s continually increasing through the donations of philanthropists like Peter Thiel, who pledged $3.5 million to the MF in 2006 according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Other notable donors to the MF include poker player Justin Bonomo and writer Sam Harris.
The Mprize has two categories, including the Longevity Prize and the Rejuvenation Prize. The Longevity Prize is awarded to the research team that sets a new record for the longest-lived mouse and the Rejuvenation Prize is awarded to the team with the most effective late-onset rejuvenation therapy. The purpose of the MF is to encourage large funding for longevity research in humans by showing that the effects of aging can be reversed in mice.
The rules for the Mprize are generally focused on verifying the life span of a candidate mouse. Competitors aren’t required inform the MF of a life-extension study for mice at the earliest opportunity, although it’s in their best interest to do so. Early notice allows the MF’s scientific advisory board more time to validate a record-breaking mouse, which is required to award the prize. This strategy also allows a new record to gain the attention of a larger audience and obtain greater benefits for receiving the Mprize.
Competitors are encouraged to establish initial contact with the MF at the start of an experiment or as soon as possible after the experiment begins. This first contact should consist of an email message containing a table with data on all of the mice in the experiment. The table should include a unique identifier for each mouse, its date of birth, gender, genotype and background strain. This table should also contain information on the each mouse’s origin such as source and date of delivery to the research team. The intervention for each mouse should also appear in the table.
Competitors for the Mprize must implement an identification that prevents older mice from being exchanged for younger ones. Any of the standard scientific methods of tagging are acceptable, such as ear tags, subcutaneous microchips and tattooing. The tagging system should be implemented shortly after the experiment begins, although the experiment may still be eligible for the prize even if it has been in progress for an extended period. The MF’s advisory board will make the final determination regarding the tagging of experimental mice.
Competitors must also notify the MF when one of the registered mice dies, so the MF can remove that mouse from its list. Eligibility for the Rejuvenation Prize also requires the researchers to establish the mice did not receive any interventions before age of onset declared in the study. This restriction includes transgenic changes unless they were induced by somatic gene therapy.
The primary purpose in providing the date of delivery and source for the mice is to meet the documentation requirements for verifying that the mice did not receive intervention before the age of onset. The advisory board will make decisions on a case-by-case basis when this information is inapplicable or unavailable. The board’s decision on this issue is most likely to be favorable when it receives information on an experiment as early as possible.
The value of the Longevity Prize depends on the total size of the fund and the margin by which the previous longevity record was broken. The formula for the prize amount is $Z x ( Y / (X + Y) ) where X is the previous record in days, Y is the number of days by which the previous record was broken and Z is the total value of the prize pot in dollars on the day that the record-breaking mouse died at noon GMT. This formula means that the prize fund can’t be exhausted, although winners receive a larger prize for breaking the previous record by a greater amount. A prize winner will receive money each week from the time that a mouse in the experiment set a new record.
The Rejuvenation Prize is awarded based on the results of a peer-reviewed study published in a scientifically credible journal. The control group and the study group must each contain a minimum of 20 mice. The intervention may not begin until the mice in the study group have reached at least half the average life span of the longest-lived mice in the top 10 percent of the control group. The mice in the study group must have at least five markers that change significantly over time as compared to the mice in the control group. All of these markers must also show a statistically significant change in the study group after beginning the therapy.