When you drive down Highway 101 past Novato’s Buck Institute for Research on Aging perched elegantly on the hill toward the west, now you can imagine worms, mice and brilliant scientists inside in a hive of inquiry.

The Buck granted the North Bay Business Journal extraordinary access to its finest research leaders. Thank you. It was a marvelous flight through this frontier science barely 20 years old. The result was three deep-dive stories ending today on research to delay the progression of aging. This was a fine romp through the Buck’s science and technology and there will be more to come.

But beneath the shimmer of our country’s best minds on aging lies a dark twinge of financial desperation. With a budget of only $35 million, the Buck runs lean. No wonder they put mice, worms and researchers on calorie-restricted diets: funds are always running short. Compare the Buck to the Department of Defense’s F-35 fighter jet, which overall cost some $1.5 trillion — various models run an average $178 million in 2015. Our federal friends could fly an F-35 over Novato and drop into Buck science hands the cash raised by not building one extra jet and thus quintuple an investment in science that could yield $10 trillion in savings on future health care.

In business, that’s called a nice return on investment.