June 2, 2010

ITALY: Silvio Berlusconi backs anti-ageing company

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LONDON, England / The Telegraph / World News / Italy / June 2, 2010

Silvio Berlusconi has thrown his support behind two companies researching ways to fight ageing and seeking a cure for cancer.

By Nick Squires in Rome

Mr Berlusconi - pictured with two unidentified women - boasts of his energy and his ability to function on just a few hours sleep Photo: AP

The famously looks-conscious Italian prime minister, 73, who has overcome prostate cancer and a heart condition, has become the biggest investor in Milan-based Molecular Medicine, a biotechnology company that is in the advanced stages of testing two cancer drugs.

He now owns almost a quarter of the company and has had his youngest son Luigi, 21, installed onto the board. Mr Berlusconi's holding is estimated to be worth more than 40 million euros (£33 million).

He also backs the company's second biggest shareholder, the Milan-based foundation San Raffaele del Monte Tabor, which plans to build a 150 million euro (£125 million) research and treatment centre this year devoted to fending off the effects of ageing.

It will be called "Quo Vadis" and will focus on preventing and curing the diseases of old age and studying the beneficial effects of nutrition and exercise.

Mr Berlusconi, who boasts of his energy and his ability to function on just a few hours sleep a night, has been described by his personal doctor as "the most extraordinary psychophysical subject I have ever examined." Umberto Scapagnini claims that the prime minister is in such good shape that he has the constitution and sexual appetite of a man 15 years younger. He has said that he hopes to be able to keep Mr Berlusconi alive until the age of 120.

In 2004 Dr Scapagnini said he had formulated for Mr Berlusconi a special elixir based on the diet of "centenarians I met on the Silk Road south of Urumqi and in the oases between the Taklamakan and Gobi deserts".

At a political rally in Rome in March, the prime minister predicted that a cure for cancer would be found before his term in office ends in 2013 and that he believes science has the capability of raising the average life expectancy to 120.

"So maybe in 100 years, I'll think of a successor," he joked.

Mr Berlusconi, who has no clear political successor to take charge of his People of Freedom coalition, is reported to have his sights set on becoming Italy's president after his term as prime minister ends in three years' time.

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2010