This interview with Jim Mellon opens with an update on some of the recent investment activities of Juvenescence, founded last year in order to participate in the enormous market opportunity afforded by the development of the first working rejuvenation therapies. It is in Mellon's self-interest to help educate the world about the size of this market, and draw in other, larger entities that will help to carry his portfolio companies to the finish line. So he is doing just that, and in doing so benefits us all. His advocacy will help all fronts in fundraising for research and development in this field.
That advocacy continues, as it remains the case that the investment community as a whole is slow to wake on the topic of treating aging as a medical condition. The more agile portions of it are starting to move, but the larger interests are still on the sidelines. Yet any viable rejuvenation therapy will be a bigger prospect that any blockbuster drug of the past few decades, and the first of these therapies are already either in development or even arguable available in the case of the first senolytic pharmaceuticals. The target market is every human being over the age of 40, for treatments that will have to be reapplied every so often, indefinitely. There won't be a bigger opportunity for gain until the orbital frontier opens up.
What's making you so optimistic that you and I will live to be 100 or 110?
The first book I wrote about biotech came out at the end of 2012. When the latest book came out, we were looking at just five years of a gap. And in those five years, artificial intelligence - which didn't exist in 2012 - is now very much in the frame for the development of new compounds. A cure for hepatitis C did not exist in 2012. Now, if you've got the money - and even if you don't have the money, because drugs are coming down in price - you can be cured of hepatitis C. Cancer immunotherapy did not exist in 2012, and is fast becoming the standard of care in blood cancers and will ultimately become as important in solid tumors as well, improving cancer survival rates by a dramatic amount. And lastly, most importantly, CRISPR gene editing did not exist in 2012. If you think about what's happened in the last five years, all remarkable technologies, just imagine what's going happen in the next five years.
How do you expect Juvenescence Ltd. will capitalize on this?
We are very early in this land grab. We are very hopeful that we can get at least two or three compounds into the clinic and out of the clinic within the next few years which will have indications beyond longevity, because it's very hard for anyone to say "I can keep you alive for 30 or 40 years" without hanging around to see if it works. I've done a few things in my life, but this is by far the most interesting and exciting. Rather than associating old people with being decrepit, people will be robust for a lot longer and will live a lot longer. I'm not a subscriber to Aubrey de Grey's view that the first person to be 1,000 is alive today. But I do absolutely believe that the first people who will live to be over 150 are amongst us now. That is just quite amazing. It's going to change everything in the world.
Not long ago I interviewed an actuary about how the financial assumptions underlying pensions or life insurance. He pointed out that gains in life expectancy are leveling off.
Every bit of our life expectancy increase in the last century or so has come from environmental factors. Better sanitation, lower infant mortality, better nutrition, less manual labor and therefore less accidents. None of it has occurred from biological change. It's only now that biological change is about to happen. The question then becomes: who benefits, and who doesn't? In the United States, you suffer from tremendous health inequality. New drugs like senolytics or rapalogs are probably going to have 10 years of patent life. Now if we have a long life, 10 years is not that long. So even if those drugs may expensive to begin with and therefore available only to so-called elites, they will in due course become rather like anti-ulcer drugs are today and available to everyone. In the 1980s, anti-ulcer drugs were extremely expensive prescription drugs. Now you can go into Walgreens and buy them for nothing, basically. That will apply to all these drugs.