Health has been a constant theme in my life, starting from 12, when I picked up an issue of Men’s Health. I was instantly inspired by the health and vitality captured in the magazine’s photos of those who made a point to prioritize health and fitness. I asked my parents for a home gym, but that wasn’t in the cards. So, we went to Home Depot, purchased a metal pipe and bicycle chain, and hung them from the basement’s rafters. It was my pull-up bar, which, along with pushups and curls, comprised my pre-teen workout routine.
For the next four years, I religiously exercised six days a week. I started to watch what I ate, which at the time was the oft-recommended low-fat, high-protein diet; I followed it to a T.
I was abruptly stopped in my tracks when I was 16. I recall waking up bloody, on the floor of NY’s Federal Reserve Bank, which I had been visiting for an extracurricular activity. It was the result of a sudden, unexpected seizure caused by a brain tumor that was larger than a golf ball. To my surprise, it had been growing for years in my left temporal lobe. I was rushed to NYU Langone Hospital, where I underwent a series of tests and the eventual radioactive resection of the tumor.
I was blessed. Not only for surviving but for having had the opportunity to have nearly lost my life and to be empowered to deeply reflect on it. The experience meant I could no longer play high school football, but I could spend my nights contemplating my existence and writing poems and in journals on the topic — pastimes I never would have engaged in prior.
“I was blessed. Not only for surviving but for having had the opportunity to have nearly lost my life and to be empowered to deeply reflect on it. The experience meant I could no longer play high school football, but I could spend my nights contemplating my existence and writing poems and in journals on the topic — pastimes I never would have engaged in prior.”
The experience planted many seeds in my subconscious, one of which has blossomed into my passion for human health and longevity and my founding of NOVOS. It also reframed my comprehension of health: from one that was superficially motivated (i.e., athletic achievement and looking physically attractive), to one that was biologically driven (to reduce the odds of disease and maximize my biological potential).
Recovery felt long and drawn out as a 16-year-old who just wanted to get back to his ordinary life. To be fair, it wasn’t as long as it could have been: doctors expected I’d spend a month in the hospital, and I was out in a week. They thought I’d be at home recouping for three months, but I was back at school in one.
But the greatest obstacles were both mental and physical. Mentally, my memory and attention were destroyed and took more than a year to return remotely close to baseline — not the best set of circumstances during SATs!
Physically, I had lost much of the fitness that I had spent years building because I was restricted from exercising for an extended period of time.
Glued to a chair and incapable of repeating a sentence that my tutor had read to me five seconds prior, I turned to exercise and physical achievement to have some sort of “success” in my life, when other aspects were so challenging.
Coping through fitness
Having heard about the U.S. Marine Corps hosting National Physical Fitness Championships in San Diego, I decided to rally some of my fittest classmates and assemble a team with the goal of qualifying for the event, which was to be held just over a year after my tumor’s resection.
Each day, I challenged myself to train, both physically and mentally. I learned self-discipline, the value of staying focused on my goal, and the critical importance of consistency.
It was worth the effort. Just over one year after nearly departing this world, I was on top of it, having qualified for the National Championships and ultimately placing 7th in the U.S.
San Diego, CA
San Diego, CA
From University to entrepreneurship
Shortly thereafter, I attended NYU Stern School of Business for undergraduate studies. I majored in Finance, Accounting, and International Business, with the intention of becoming an entrepreneur. I had been inspired by spending a year as a programmer for an NYC tech startup prior to my brain tumor’s discovery, and I wanted to learn the inner mechanisms of running a business.
Upon graduation, I was seduced by the lucrative incentives of a job in finance and joined a private equity company. I immediately felt like a sellout and was itching to leave. So, I co-founded a social media company with friends, with which we won NYU’s business plan competition, and I immediately started on my entrepreneurial journey, one that has been full of successes and failures.
All the while, my passion for health persevered. I never stepped away from my exercise routine, and by my late 20s, I started researching nutrition, vitamins, and supplements from a scientific perspective. I dug into the PubMed databases, read blogs written by authorities in the subject matter, attended biology conferences, and self-experimented with more than 100 different supplements, multiple diets, eating windows and fasts, exercise routines, sleep hacks, technologies, and more – all while recording my biometrics.
A step-function improvement in health
I hadn’t considered how far off I had been from my physical and mental potential, but after a series of scientifically informed decisions, I experienced a step-function improvement in performance. Over the years, my energy, focus, memory, lucidness, gastrointestinal comfort, and physical performance all improved dramatically.
It wasn’t immediate: it was a long journey of discovery through trial and error, made possible with resources like affordable genetic sequencing and public analytical toolsets, bio trackers, blood labs, online health communities, and a wealth of information made possible through books and the internet.
Proving myself young at 30 & beyond
I had spent so much of my waking life in my 20s focused on my startup career and living an exciting life in NYC that I hadn’t seen my 30s coming until I was six months into being 29. Feeling “old,” I set my first significant physical goal since my recovery from my brain tumor 12 years prior: to achieve the Guinness Book World Record for the most pull-ups in 60 seconds.
I’m remiss to say that my video submission was not accepted, and by the time they notified me, it was nearly half a year since the attempt and I was on to a new goal. With that said, I’m internally satisfied to know that I had far exceeded the record at the time, which was 43 (I achieved 47 for the submission, and 54 was my personal best).
After pull-ups, my focus shifted to deadlifts, and my goal was to lift 3x my body weight. I achieved this goal, while 48 hours into a fast.
My health journey (finally) arrives at longevity
I was fasting for the combination of the health benefits experienced from prolonged fasting and while self-experimenting with a ketogenic diet.
At this point, I was beginning to dig deep into the science of longevity and self-experimentation, as popularized by Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Institute, and now, doctors like Dr. David Sinclair and Dr. Peter Attia, along with more mainstream influencers like Tony Robbins (in collaboration with Dr. Peter Diamandis).
Part of the reason for my interest was a question that constantly nagged at me: “Is what I’m doing good for me not only today but in the long-term, too?”
This especially came up for recommendations popularized by health and wellness influencers, or worse yet, following mainstream health advice that has been failing so many.
“Is what I’m doing good for me not only today but in the long-term, too?… This especially came up for recommendations popularized by health and wellness influencers”
What I hadn’t realized at the time was that I was dealing with the question of antagonistic pleiotropy, or simply put, “What’s good for you today may be harmful for you tomorrow.”
“What I hadn’t realized at the time was that I was dealing with the question of antagonistic pleiotropy, or simply put, ‘What’s good for you today may be harmful for you tomorrow.'”
This realization inspired me to want to understand what lifestyle and interventions would be best for me in the short and long term and naturally led me to longevity biology, where I find myself today.
From citizen scientist to consumer biotech founder
Years into longevity research and self-experimentation, I started to network with world-renowned longevity biologists in the field. It began by happenstance: while volunteering in the pediatric wing of NYU Langone Hospital (where my brain tumor was resected 15+ years prior), I came across a poster for a Mitochondrial Summit. I recognized some of the presenting scientists’ names, like MIT’s Dr. David Sabitini of mTOR “fame” (we each have different definitions of fame, OK? 😉 )
As possibly the only attendee without “Ph.D.” appended to my name, I attended the event and cornered Dr. Sabitini after his presentation, asking questions about natural compounds I had been researching that showed evidence of mTOR inhibition and improvements in animal lifespan. I admit, I was somewhat surprised by how optimistic he was about these substances and their research — I was expecting him to be overtly biased toward pharmaceuticals. This got me excited about a business concept I had been playing with in my head.
I went on to meet with many other longevity biologists and geneticists, as I was conceiving of natural ways to address the “mechanisms of aging” and simultaneously refining my concept for a company. I had noticed that the only legit companies in the longevity space were advanced, invasive, experimental biotechnologies, and not much existed for consumers who wanted to extend their healthy lives and those of their loved ones via natural means.
I presented my concepts and collected feedback from more than a dozen of the brightest scientists in longevity. Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School was excited by the concept and one of the early formulation concepts and encouraged me to pursue the opportunity. Other renowned scientists with whom I consulted included Dr. George Church of Harvard and MIT (and inventor of the first gene sequencing method!), Dr. Oliver Medvedik of Harvard and Life Extension Advocacy Foundation, Dr. João Pedro Magalhães of Harvard and the University of Liverpool, Dr. Matt Kaeberlein of MIT and the University of Washington, Dr. Pamela Maher of The Salk Institute, and many, many others.
As the scientific and business visions converged, I asked some of the scientists to join the Scientific Advisory Board for what is now NOVOS, and I’m happy to say six world-class longevity Ph.D.’s joined with enthusiasm. These scientists contribute to our formulations, provide an insider perspective on what’s not published in the studies, give insights into the rapidly evolving field of longevity medicine, and provide feedback on our own study designs.
Health through the longevity lens
Looking at health through the lens of human longevity results in a surprising amount of clarity for maximizing health and doing so for the long term, which I hope to showcase on this blog and via NOVOS’ blog.
It also promises to be the best way to stave off the most debilitating, likely-to-occur diseases, which all have the commonality of age as the most significant factor contributing to their occurrence. These diseases range from most forms of cancer, to Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, diabetes, osteoporosis, glaucoma, sarcopenia … the list goes on!
My confrontation with mortality as a teen, combined with my deep, innate desire to maximize my finite life (in all senses!), makes longevity a lifelong passion for me.
Why this blog?
Although science has a ways to go on the journey of slowing and reversing aging, it has come very far — far enough to make a sizable impact on lifespan and healthspan for all of us. After spending years going direct to the primary sources studying health and longevity, then through the process of self-experimentation and bio tracking, I’ve been able to learn what works for me to reduce the odds of chronic illness and to extend my healthy lifespan. If epigenetic tests are an indication of success, then arguably the most accurate one (DunedinPACE, a collaboration between Columbia and Duke University researchers), which declares I’m aging at 0.69 years per year, is one of multiple biometrics to consider.
With that said, I also have health challenges to overcome: my blood glucose is higher than I’d like it to be, despite an incredibly strict diet and many science-based self-experiments; I have nagging genetic issues to cope with (e.g., homozygous MTHFR C677t and a very high genetic propensity for mosaic loss of chromosome Y, far from ideal obesity genes…); etc. I’ll dive into these issues in future posts.
Ultimately, I intend for this blog to be a resource for those who deeply value life; care to make the most of it for themselves, loved ones, and strangers alike; and consider my experiences as helpful hints for what they may want to experiment with for their own health spans and lifespans.