Talking with Laura Deming: Aging is the World's Most Important Problem

Laura Deming is one of the people influential in the sweeping shift of the past few years in research and development of therapies to treat aging, in which rejuvenation biotechnologies such as senolytic therapies finally started the move from the laboratory into startup companies, on the way to the clinic. She founded the first venture fund to specialize in what people are now calling the longevity sector of the biotech industry, somewhat before that longevity sector actually existed in any meaningful way. Now, of course, funding is pouring into this area of development; the years ahead will be interesting. Now is very much the time for entrepreneurs to step up, find viable projects in aging and longevity, raise the funds, and carry them forward into clinical development.

At 25, Laura Deming has already achieved more in her chosen field - anti-ageing - than many people twice her age. At 12 she was researching the biology of ageing in the laboratory of one of the world's leading scientists; at 14 she went to study physics at MIT, only to drop out at 17 and start a venture capital fund under the guidance of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel. Aubrey de Grey, the English gerontologist who has suggested that humans might live to be 1,000, calls Deming an "utter genius" for her scientific and investment "brilliance".

There is a long history of charlatans selling the cure to getting old. However, Deming is no biohacker; she isn't fiddling with diet, exercise, or pills to add an extra year or two to her life. Her ambition is far greater: to accelerate anti-ageing science so that everyone can live healthier lives for longer. To that end, she founded the Longevity Fund in 2011, when she was still a teenager, to invest in biotech companies making treatments for age-related diseases.

When Deming decided to start raising money to get anti-ageing research out of the lab, she was still too young to sign the paperwork - her father had to do it on her behalf. She received some advice from Peter Thiel but confesses that she really did not know what she was doing. "You'd google 'How to start a venture capital fund' and there were just no articles," she says, amazed. For the first two years of the fund, Deming tried to sell investors on the "science and the humanitarian issues at stake". "Honestly, for two years I gave the same pitch of, here's a $20 billion market and here's all the people who are dying, can someone help them? And everyone was like, 'That's amazing, you're such a good person', and nobody invested," she laughs. She learned she needed to link her passion for the cause to a "very concrete business case".

The fund's first investment, in Unity Biotechnology, helped her to do that. Unity is developing a drug that targets senescent cells - decrepit cells that refuse to die. If it works, the drug could be used to treat age-related diseases such as osteoarthritis, eye diseases, and pulmonary diseases. Unity went public last year and now has a valuation of more than $350 million. "Having a concrete case to show potential investors ... that was what brought it together." Deming's biggest fear is the hype cycle: what if a few early anti-ageing trials flop, and the money goes away? "That gives me a lot of fear, because it's a field that is still very early. There's a lot of stuff that's still being figured out, and I think a lot of things will fail."



I'd have to agree that it is the most important problem. In my greatest hopes, a life without an expiration date (excluding getting hit by that bus, of course) would produce better people with a longer term outlook on things such as the environment and the well - being of society as a whole (fewer criminals and generally bad people).

A dream for sure but I guess we'll know nothing until we start producing results in real people.

Posted by: bmack500 at June 14th, 2019 7:45 AM

Studying phonics at MIT at the tender age of 14... I feel so much inferior and I am not the dullest knife in the drawer...

Let's hope that unity can deliver a viable product.

I am not sure what is the potential market side, though. For sure rejuvenation therapies can save at least as much as the pension payments as the people will be able to work.

But how much of that money could be captured?

I, personally, can give really 10 percent of my after tax income to keep me in the same shape. But will be much harder if it goes to the half of it. Of course, if I have an option to be productive versus decrepit even 90% might be justified. If course, the treatments quickly will become cheaper. Probably the first 20 years will be very pricey and then it will be like between , say something like dialysis and lasic reach year

Posted by: Cuberat at June 14th, 2019 8:49 AM

When reading the heading that aging is the most important issue, I had to smile. Logically, if you slow down aging in a person, he will suffer from multiple illnesses for longer. More interesting are the aging accelerators that can reduce morbidity and keep old people within reasonable limits. We eat aging accelerators for 60 years. They turned out to be safe, painless. In addition, new and more effective aging accelerators of natural origin are introduced on the market every year, so there is no need to discover anything new.

The problem with the planet is the increase in cadmium contamination that comes from the burning of oil in ocean liners. Cadmium can be referred to as an aging accelerator, but directly as the cause of aging. If it ceases with cadmium, it also shortens life expectancy, but it is a very painful condition. Cadmium is already causing infertility, abortion, cancer in young people.

Posted by: Jan Omasta at June 16th, 2019 9:38 AM

For Cuberat: I, personally, can give really 10 percent of my after tax income to keep me in the same shape.

Add more! Prices are somewhere else. I don't know how much "it would cost" to keep you in the same shape. But if you wanted to "age" half the speed, you would have to pay 30% of your income for it.

Posted by: Jan Omasta at June 16th, 2019 10:02 AM

@Jan Omasta
If it really worked to stop saying to Hoover around my current age, probably 50% of my income can stop go towards anything therapies. More and I will not able to sustain the house, kids and marketable appearance to find a well parting job:)

However, the costs mainly fixed like research and development, regulatory approvals and such. Senolitics themselves are cheap (for the OECD) counties. The same applies to small molecules when mass produced. For example, Dasatinib is expensive because it is somehow niche and patent protected. And is toxic, so requires prescription. In a couple of years its parents will start expiring and the prices will drop worry.

For R&D the truly reach people will pay the bulk of the cost to get into the early therapies. And to improve the quality the therapy has to be tested on a large population, hence the rich will have incentives to sponsor the research. The question is when will be the first human studies. After that it will become mainstream.

Posted by: Cuberat at June 16th, 2019 10:39 AM

The first human studies will not be for five reasons.
1) Drugs that slow 60% aging have existed for over half a century and are widely available. However, these drugs have a bad reputation.
2) Only 1% of people desire to live forever and only 0.02% of people have the money to do so.
3) If a study proves the effectiveness of any therapy, it would be subject to excise duty and it would impair the competitiveness of the therapy. Probably the entrepreneur / investor wouldn't get rich on it.
4) Most people buy poorly effective or ineffective anti-aging drugs.
5) Part of the anti-aging research is paid by agencies for depopulating the planet. The aim of this research is for people to wait for something better or to use ineffective anti-aging drugs and age with rocket speed.
6) Finally, the way to earn a lot of antiaging is to get paying investors to research rejuvenation procedures.

Posted by: Jan Omasta at June 16th, 2019 11:17 AM

@Jan Omasta
>1) Drugs that slow 60% aging have existed for over half a century and are widely available. However, these drugs have a bad reputation

Can you reallocate more? What are the drugs and studies done?

Posted by: Cuberat at June 16th, 2019 11:29 AM

They are over-the-counter, so you can buy them anywhere. However, the most promotions have the ineffective ones. If so via

Posted by: Omasta at June 16th, 2019 12:55 PM

Cool Story Jan!

Posted by: JohnD at June 16th, 2019 6:01 PM

@Jan Omasta, aging accelerators??!! why would anyone want to accelerate aging??!!

Posted by: mcmp at June 17th, 2019 10:19 AM

And we can easily do it already ;) showing it down, on the other hand is the b#_$

Posted by: Cuberat at June 17th, 2019 12:05 PM

Oh look - it's a troll. How boring.

Posted by: CD at June 17th, 2019 1:20 PM
Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.