More Funds are Assembled for Biotech Startups in the Field of Longevity Science

A number of entities are energetically raising funds to invest in biotech startups that aim to treat aging in some way. Beyond the more traditionally structured venture funds, such as the Longevity Fund, and technology funds like Kizoo Technology Ventures and Felicis Ventures that are turning their attention to biotech investment, there are also private equity / business development companies such as Juvenescence and Life Biosciences. Today I'll point out recent news for those two regarding their success in raising funding. This sort of thing is one of the signs of a building initial hype cycle for the first meaningful ways to intervene in aging, of which the most important is clearance of senescent cells via senolytic therapies of various types.

Highly promising new technologies always arrive with a great burst of investment, a period in which it is easy to raise funding for startup companies, a great deal of development takes place, and there is a much greater degree of enthusiasm for near term results than the reality merits. In addition to the useful projects that take place, emerging from those who know the ground well, there are also unsophisticated investors who will put funds into unwise projects. This always happens when there is a rush of this nature. Sooner or later those unwise projects come unraveled, the crash comes, and then there is some period in which everyone outside the industry is scornful, and investors who invested poorly shy away from the entire field, licking their wounds.

Once that is done and cooler heads prevail, a more tempered enthusiasm for progress will start to pick up again in a reasonable manner. The hype and the crash tends to obscure the fact that meaningful progress actually did occur as a result of at least some of the investment in the field, but humans being human we don't seem to have figured out a way to embark upon the creation of new industries without this initial excess and overreaction. It happened for railways, it happened for the internet, it will happen for rejuvenation.

So as a necessary step on the way towards the realization of the first of a future suite of rejuvenation therapies based on the SENS programs, those of use who have spent the past fifteen years or more trying to attract attention to this area of the life sciences should be pleased that matters have now reached the opening stages of the hype stage. Our efforts have successfully pushed the field forward. When the inevitable crash on the far side of the hype cycle arrives, we should welcome that also. Underneath the roller-coaster ride of investment that the press focuses on breathlessly, real and meaningful work will be taking place.

Anti-aging startup Juvenescence bags $46M for pipeline push

Juvenescence has raised the first $46 million tranche of series B financing en route to an anticipated $100 million round. The investment, which values Juvenescence at $400 million, tees the anti-aging startup to advance the multiasset pipeline it has built over the past 18 months toward readouts. Jim Mellon, a British billionaire biotech investor, created Juvenescence with early Medivation backer Greg Bailey and three others in 2017. Since then, the founders have used their cash and contacts to turbocharge the growth of Juvenescence with $115 million in investment. Juvenescence expects that figure to rise in the coming months when it closes the next tranche of a forecast $100 million round.

The rapid fundraising, and mooted 2019 IPO, reflect Juvenescence's belief that it is in the early stages of a longevity land grab. By pulling in handfuls of money, Juvenescence has been able to pen a string of deals and position itself to support the programs through to important readouts. Juvenescence already has its fingers in lots of pies. Using its early funding, the startup licensed assets from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, bought controlling stakes in AgeX Therapeutics and LyGenesis - a pair of regenerative medicine players - formed artificial intelligence joint ventures with Insilico Medicine and Netramark and invested $10 million in a small molecule senolytics program.

Life Biosciences joins the longevity race

Life Biosciences will on Monday announce the completion of a $50M funding round - twice its original target - to invest in a range of approaches to extending healthy life. "We have undertaken a big land-grab of longevity-related intellectual property and we have pulled together a lot of the world's longevity scientists." Longevity is a rapidly expanding sector of the biotech industry, as scientists learn more about the way biological pathways fail in old age. Investors in Life Biosciences are mainly wealthy individuals and family trusts, reflecting a widespread view that ageing millionaires are keen to put some of their money into longevity research.

Life Biosciences had quietly raised $25M in an early financing round in 2017. It declined to disclose the company's current value but others familiar with the latest fundraising estimated the valuation at about $500M. "We are tackling all eight pathways of age-related decline." These include cellular senescence, stem cell exhaustion, and dysfunction in mitochondria (the energy-generating units in cells). Six "daughter companies" work semi-independently on different development projects. One such company, Senolytic Therapeutics, is developing compounds and technologies that target senescent cells. Researchers believe that destroying these "zombie" cells will counteract some of the adverse effects of ageing.

Comments

Do you foresee the development of a mutual fund specializing in anti-aging companies?

Posted by: Peter Christiansen at January 21st, 2019 5:41 PM

@Peter Christiansen: In time, but not for years yet.

Posted by: Reason at January 21st, 2019 7:50 PM

Let's hope the hype crash does not lead to long term hibernation in aging funding

I fear it coming

A $400 MM post money for Juvenescence??

Let's see:

The Juvenescence 14.4MM AgeX shares, at NYSE current market price of $4.23 = $61 MM (they own approx 40% of AgeX today)

Add on top of that the new $46MM of cash

That means the folks there think the value of everything else in their portfolio (early stage discovery shops LyGenesis and Antoxerene, and AI magicians Insilico and Netramark) is at least $300 million???? And they own less than 100% of each of those assets!

That technically values each of those assets at least $75 million each! More than their AgeX shares are valued on the NYSE?!

As far as Sinclair, and anyone that would trust him corner the market with such a "bio-conglomerate" model, I have nothing else to say but......Sirtris

Keep the money on the sidelines and let these institutions have the first crash - I feel that there will be Warren Buffet style value to pick up in the coming years

Posted by: BioInvestor99 at January 22nd, 2019 5:22 AM

Think of where we were from like 2000 to 2016, and now how far we came in 2017 and 2018. It also shows why its hard to predict how far we can go in a certain time period.

I don't see a crash anytime soon. Like in railways, those first people in, building the first rail lines, between the big cities, those were just pure gold. Those lines are still gold over a hundred years later.

It took decades of massive investment in railroads before the good opportunities started to run out, and more questionable railroads were being built.

Posted by: aa3 at January 22nd, 2019 9:07 PM

@aa3

An interesting parallel

But back then you had railroad magnates like billionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt footing a large part of the development phase

Not millions of small retail investors that are being pulled in much earlier in by billionaires like Mellon who seem to be putting very little proportionately of their wealth on the table, and are promising hype that could evaporate in an instant

Posted by: BioInvestor99 at January 23rd, 2019 4:08 AM

@BioInvestor99, it does show the guys like Mellon are not as confident in the opportunity as Vanderbilt was in railroads.

I think once Vanderbilt got approval from governments to build a line between two cities, where at that point no rail lines existed between those cities, it was a virtually no-risk investment. In that light there was no reason for him to share the opportunity with other investors. He may though have been spreading the risk by taking loans from a number of banks, and raising funds through bonds from a number of sources.

An analogy to raising big capital once you have the approval, is how pharmaceutical companies use debt to buy up smaller companies that have an approval or very likely to get that approval.

Posted by: aa3 at January 23rd, 2019 7:17 PM

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