As you might recall, the Methuselah Foundation recently formalized its years of non-profit activities as an incubator of biotechnology startups to launch the Methuselah Fund. The goal remains the same: to accelerate the development of rejuvenation biotechnology by funding promising young companies in important areas of medicine. That has included Organovo, now a publicly traded bioprinting company whose founders have helped the New Organ initiative, and Oisin Biotechnology, where the founders are developing a gene therapy approach to the selective destruction of senescent cells. Not resting on their laurels, the Methuselah Foundation volunteers are presently shepherding the early stages of Leucadia Therapeutics and its work on a novel approach to an Alzheimer's therapy.
I'm pleased to say that Fight Aging! has taken the plunge to make a mixed philanthropic and for-profit investment in the Methuselah Fund, alongside a number of other people in our community. This is a continuation of past charitable support of the Methuselah Foundation and modest investments made over the past year and a half in a few of the emerging startups relevant to rejuvenation biotechnology. In this case it is a fund, not a company, so it is in effect a somewhat more diversified form of support that will be split between the companies that the Methuselah Fund staff choose to support over the years ahead. It is an investment in the positive impact on the future of our health and longevity that I believe the Methuselah Foundation team can produce if given greater amounts of funding and let loose on the field.
It is sad economic reality that there is an order of magnitude more funding out there ready to invest in high-risk for-profit categories, such as startup companies, than there is available for charitable non-profit funding of research. There is yet another order of magnitude greater funding available for investment in later, less risky stages of for-profit development. Yet progress in technology depends on fundamental research, and all of the new biotechnologies needed to create working rejuvenation therapies require non-profit research funding in order to come to fruition. Research funding is the limiting factor on the pace of progress. So in effect there is a lot of for-profit funding sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the comparatively tiny amount of available research funding to produce results that can be commercialized. It seems inefficient to me, but it is what it is. Look at your own net worth and choices for the future: how much can you realistically allocate to non-profit donations versus for-profit investments that align with your values and visions? You have to be either significantly more wealthy or significantly more of a zealot than I for the former figure to be larger than the latter.
Which is not to even talk about the fact that funding for aging research and in particular for rejuvenation biotechnology is tiny in the grand scheme of things, even considering the above points. In the bigger picture, in which our community is creating an industry, warming up to sufficient funding for effective development of repair therapies for the damage of aging, we're only just getting started. Best foot forward, and the world is just now starting to wake up given the noise being made about clearance of senescent cells. The next few years will be interesting indeed as we reach a series of important tipping points, but tipping points or not, I don't see it ceasing to be a challenge to raise the funds needed, either for the research or for the companies that result from that research. We just getting better at it, and more sources of funding are potentially open to participation.
Still, there are concrete reasons as to why I support the Methuselah Foundation and now the Methuselah Fund. The best sort of investment fund for our field is one that doesn't just sit around waiting for scientists and entrepreneurs to figure out their own way to building the technology, starting a company, and come knocking in search of seed funding. The best sort of organization is one that reaches down into the research community and helps to bring at least some the best lines of research to the point at which commercial development is possible. For the past fifteen years that has been the Methuselah Foundation, coming at this challenge from the non-profit direction. It is a model that is now being adopted by newer groups such as the Forever Healthy Foundation, coming at the challenge from the venture funding direction.
The longevity community needs more organizations like these that straddle the divide between non-profit funding of promising research on the one hand, and funding of the companies that are created as a result of that research on the other hand. It isn't enough just to get the research into a promising state of readiness. Why stop there, where there is plenty still left to achieve in order to reach the clinic? It isn't enough just to fund the companies that emerge. Why be stuck waiting for those companies when you could achieve so much more by supporting and guiding the most promising research groups prior to that stage?