Alongside Juvenescence, Life Biosciences is one of the first large investment concerns wholly dedicated to the growing longevity industry. The Life Biosciences principals take the approach of providing the extensive supporting infrastructure needed to wrap a company around a senior scientist in the field of aging research, and then guide their work towards commercialization. Most scientists have very little interest in founding a company, and in any case lack the skills needed to do so. This approach of providing an environment that operates in much the same way as academia from the perspective of the researcher, in which the business side of things is handled, is a good way to accelerate progress in a field that presently lacks a sufficiently large population of entrepreneurs for companies to emerge naturally at a good pace.
How far along is longevity in becoming a defined category for investors? Put it on a scale of 0-10 for us. If fintech has developed to a nine or a ten, where would you score longevity?
From an investment perspective I would say it's a one or a two. But I believe that will change very quickly. I think the scale will go from a two to an eight in the next four to five years. Like the Internet of Things, or Artificial Intelligence before it, in the next few years I can't imagine a single person on the planet not being aware of the ability to extend lifespan and healthspan, both as an industry and as a benefit to humankind.
So, a major shift in our thinking is on the way?
In 1903, the Wright brothers defied expectation and took their first flight. We have the photo of this on our office wall, to remind us of who we are. The idea of humans being able to fly back then was crazy; most people were saying it couldn't be done. Yet after they left the earth's gravity, it didn't take mankind years to accept it. We immediately forgot that it was crazy. All we needed was proof that it could be done, and we never looked back. That's exactly where we are with longevity sciences. Longevity research has been evolving as a legitimate science for many years. But I think we are at the cusp of dramatic change. We'll see more and more bright young minds focusing on longevity, and we will soon treat aging. Eventually, we're talking about adding another 20 - 30 years to the average lifespan with none of the diseases of aging: Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, type 2 diabetes, etc. In other words, not only expanding lifespan but what we call "healthspan," the period during which the individual can live a healthy, productive life.
Does all this development mean big institutional investors will soon be paying attention?
Plenty already are. The science, however, has to build to a point where the rounds are large enough for them to get involved. Once you start raising $100m to $200m rounds, they'll start paying real attention and investing. The rounds must be large enough for the mandates to allow and value checks must be in place in new areas; this can be tough to do. As the science progresses, we see the investment interest ramping up, with bigger contributors stepping in. A lot also depends on how quickly some institutions learn to adapt. By "adapt" I mean simply this: There's a long-held understanding that Big Pharma relies on illness for profits. But if they reframe their mission as being in the healthspan business, then the longevity revolution is valuable for them. It's my hope that Pharma embraces this change as a wonderful and necessary way for them to evolve their business in a much more effective way.