In Brief
  • Jim O'Neill, the Trump transition team's choice for FDA chief, is a managing director at Silicon Valley investment firm Mithril Capital Management.
  • O'Neill advocates developing medicines to combat aging. He believes this field is "long overdue for innovation."

Who is Jim O’Neil?

Everyone is waiting to hear President-elect Donald Trump’s choices for his cabinet. Perhaps the most interesting of these supposed nominations, according to sources who don’t want to be identified, is for the next head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Jim O’Neill, the Trump transition team’s choice for FDA chief, is a managing director at Silicon Valley investment firm Mithril Capital Management, one of Peter Thiel’s venture investment firms. Although the selection is an on-going process and isn’t official just yet, O’Neill is certainly a favorable choice under an incoming administration heavily criticized as “unfriendly” to science. One thing is for sure, though. His possible appointment could herald reforms in the FDA.

“We should reform FDA so there is approving drugs after their sponsors have demonstrated safety — and let people start using them, at their own risk, but not much risk of safety,” said O’Neill, speaking at an August 2014 conference called Rejuvenation Biotechnology, referring to what he calls ‘progressive approval.’

Another area O’Neill believes is “long overdue for innovation” is research in anti-aging treatments. He is a known advocate of developing medicines to combat aging.

Aging Is a Disease?

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering how Thiel funds companies working on research in reversing aging. But Mithril Capital Management isn’t the only investment firm funding anti-aging research. Last October, a group of investors united to fund Unity Biotechnology’s work.

With more and more scientists presenting evidence for aging to be considered a disease, research for a treatment or cure is progressing along considerably well. One group of researchers is looking at RNA splicing to prolong lifespans, while another studies protein imbalance in the blood to slow aging. Other studies are looking at a protein that possibly controls aging or a hormone that could reverse it.

These are just some examples of how developments in genetics and biotech are changing the way we understand how our body works. A mechanism that’s believed to be part of the normal process of life is now considered a disease. If O’Neill’s appointment is confirmed, we can expect even more development in this field of research.