Preston W. Estep III (also known as Pete Estep) is an American biologist and science and technology advocate. He is a graduate of Cornell University, where he did neuroscience research, and he earned a Ph.D. in Genetics from Harvard University. He did his doctoral research in the laboratory of genomics pioneer Professor George M. Church at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Estep is an inventor of several technologies including DNA chip-based readout of transposon-based selections and universal DNA protein-binding microarrays (PBMs). He is Director of Gerontology and an adviser to the Personal Genome Project, the first "open-source" genome project founded by George Church and based at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Estep founded and is the former Chairman and Chief Science Officer (CSO) of the Innerspace Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on neuroengineering. He is a co-founder and chairman of the Mind First Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on the treatment of mental disorders and dysfunction. He is one of the main subjects of the documentary film Reconvergence.
Dr. Estep is the Chief Scientific Officer of Veritas Genetics.
Dr. Estep is the author of the 2016 book The Mindspan Diet, which proposes a concept called "mindspan" (a measure of overall health and mental longevity). Estep suggests that mindspan is superior to lifespan and other measures of health and longevity because a key parameter of mindspan is good mental function throughout life. The Mindspan Diet presents a contrast between the longest lived people with high mental function ("the Mindspan Elite") and a second group of people from throughout the world who have good healthcare but shorter lives and the highest levels of cognitive decline ("the Mindspan Risk").
The book suggests that diet is a key difference and contrasts key dietary components and "biomarkers" (such as body weight and temperature, blood insulin and glucose, cholesterol, etc.) between Mindspan Elite and Mindspan Risk. The book concludes that a key difference between Mindspan Elite and Mindspan Risk is dietary iron, and the amount of iron in the bodies and brains of Mindspan Elite (low iron) and Mindspan Risk (high iron). A key finding of the book that is at odds with current dietary recommendations regards certain refined carbohydrate (carbs) foods. The book presents evidence that the base of the dietary pyramids of the Mindspan Elite is refined carbs in the form of white rice (mindspan leader Japan), and refined wheat pasta and bread (Mediterranean). Dr. Estep says that these foods in Mindspan Elite countries and regions are not enriched with iron, while equivalent foods in Mindspan Risk countries and regions are enriched with iron.
Dr. Estep is active in aging research and in criticizing anti-aging claims he suggests are unrealistic or poorly supported. He is the founding CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of TeloMe, Inc, a telomere analysis company and he is the former CEO of the human longevity research biotech company Longenity, Inc., which he founded with Matt Kaeberlein. Longenity has since folded but the company published research showing that a calorie restricted diet feminizes gene expression (in mice) and that it regulates both sirtuin and TOR aging regulatory pathways.
He has been highly critical of Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), a plan to reverse and repair the damage of aging. In mid-2006 he was the lead author of a submission by a group of nine scientists to the MIT Technology Review SENS Challenge. The SENS Challenge panel of judges selected this submission as the best but concluded that it failed to meet the burden of proof established by the challenge: to show that "SENS is not worthy of learned debate." Some commentators have been critical of this requirement, saying that virtually any idea is worthy of some level of learned debate, though the terms of the prize were known in advance to all participants. Estep and colleagues failed to win the $20,000 prize on offer, but Technology Review's editor, Jason Pontin, nevertheless awarded them $10,000 for their "careful scholarship". (See the "De Grey Technology Review controversy" entry for more details.) Their submission criticized the SENS plan as essentially bringing Lysenkoism to modern aging research. Estep and colleagues donated the $10,000 award to the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR).
Estep has been openly critical of SENS and of Aubrey de Grey for alleged misrepresentation of scientific evidence, and he suggests that the SENS plan does not address some of the most challenging aspects of aging including unrepaired DNA damage, noncancerous mutation and epimutation of the nuclear genome, and drift of cell and tissue-specific chromatin states. This latter damage type is generally considered a primary cause of cellular dedifferentiation and transdifferentiation, which degrade organismal function.
While critical of SENS and other anti-aging proposals, Estep is equally critical of the claim made by some in mainstream biogerontology that aging and/or death are incurable. He has challenged claimants to provide evidence for this assertion and points out the absence of evidence or physical law that might stand as a barrier to curing aging. He appears to advocate mind uploading more strongly than attempting to conquer aging.