Y Combinator Shows an Interest in Investing in the Treatment of Aging
The Y Combinator community is one of the more influential parts of the Bay Area, California technology-focused venture industry. Many of the long-term supporters of SENS rejuvenation research can be found in that part of the world and in related professions - it isn't a coincidence that the SENS Research Foundation is based in the Bay Area. There is a big difference between quiet private support and loud public support for a cause, however. It is thus interesting to see that the Y Combinator principals are now, better late than never, putting their best foot forward to declare interest in the development of therapies to extend human health span and life span.
When established mainstream entities start to throw their support into the ring, it is a sign that the tipping point has arrived and passed. The underlying psychology is that the people involved now see little in the way of any threat to their reputations in supporting efforts to treat aging as a medical condition, which tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy when the majority goes along with it. No-one ever wants to be the first to commit, of course. Now it seems that the long years of bootstrapping the foundations for a rejuvenation research community in the face of a hostile research community and an uncaring public are just about over. This is all to the good, and everyone who helped to support the SENS community since the turn of the century should be feeling justifiably pleased with the way things have gone over the past few years. Y Combinator now joins the Longevity Fund, Kizoo Technology Ventures, Methuselah Fund, Apollo Ventures, Jim Mellon's Juvenescence venture, and others in a focus on turning back the impact of aging on human health and life span.
I'm excited to announce a new experiment we're going to try: YC Bio. YC Bio is a new way for us to fund early-stage life science companies that are still in the lab phase. Because biology is such a large field, we're going to try concentrating on one sub-area at a time (we've found the companies working in similar areas get a lot of value from being around each other). The first area we're going to focus on is healthspan and age-related disease - we think there's an enormous opportunity to help people live healthier for longer, and that it could be one of the best ways to address our healthcare crisis.
We've been funding bio companies for a little while now, and we've learned a bit about what works and doesn't. We will try to design the program in light of what we've learned, and almost certainly we'll make a lot of changes as we go along. This will be a special track - the companies will go through the regular YC batch, but there will be a few differences. Instead of the standard deal for YC companies (which is $120,000 invested for 7% ownership) we'll offer these companies any amount between $500k and $1 million for 10-20% ownership, scaling linearly.
We'll also offer the companies free lab space (we're still looking for one lab space partner, and we'd love for interested partners to get in touch). In addition, we'll have a number of other special deals for YC bio companies, and access to a wide range of experts. There will be a specific Request for Startup in our application system for companies to indicate they're interested in this system. Other bio companies are of course welcome to apply for the standard YC program.
Technology Review's quick take on this:
"Y Combinator started accepting biology companies in 2014. One of them, Ginkgo, has gone on to raise hundreds of millions more to fund its organism-hacking business. As for others, Altman says he's not worried about getting his money back: "You could make a pill that added two years to a person's life that would be a $100 billion company.""
Very welcome news indeed! I'm sure that as the various Founders get a little older, feel a few more aches and pains and as the grey and wrinkles set in... the money will flow. Aging sucks. Get rid of it.
What would actually be realistic amounts of capital for actually getting a biotech startup through each stage of development, and what are those stages?
@Jim: the answer depends strongly on the details. If starting with compelling research results in animal studies, then a few million should be enough to get to the point of partnering with a Big Pharma entity or raising much larger amounts to run trials. But there is work that can be done for less than that, and work that might take tens of millions to get to the point of clinical trials.