Prof Barzilai’s own work at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York has identified genetic variants that mark out people who live to a “ripe old age”.

The new drugs build on these discoveries, which involve biological pathways affecting metabolism, cell-death, inflammation and cholesterol.

‘Pharmaceutical companies are developing these drugs now,’ said Prof Barzilai, who joined other experts at the Royal Society in London today for a discussion meeting on the science of ageing.

‘They will probably be available for testing from 2012.’