The Longevity Vision Fund is the third of the sizable pools of venture funding to emerge of late, after Juvenescence and Life Biosciences, that are dedicated to the new longevity industry. Unlike the other two, the Longevity Vision fund is initially focused on what I would say are initiatives that don't much matter and won't much move the needle on human aging. Only in their second phase do they intend to invest in classes of biotechnology and therapy that may include high value approaches.
Despite the way in which senolytics to remove harmful senescent cells outperform everything else to date in reversal of aging and age-related disease, we are still, it seems, somewhat early in the phase of spreading the understanding that repair based strategies are the only real way forward to sizable gains in human health and life span in old age. Aging is damage and repair of that damage is rejuvenation - as a steering principle, this is still not yet widely adopted. As a result a great deal of funding is going to be used on projects that do very little of consequence in the matter of aging. At a conference not so long ago, I mentioned this to a wealth manager, who shrugged and said that there is so much potential funding on the sidelines, tipping towards becoming involved, that it doesn't much matter - just fund everything with a credible team and let the chips fall where they may.
There so many things that make longevity investment risky. Not only is it subject to all of the translational risks seen in more traditional biotech investing, but we're also so early on in the game that its hard to tell if any of it will live up to its promise. Let's say I'm a nervous first-time investor in longevity - you run one of the biggest funds in this space, give me some tips on how you assess risk.
Longevity is a new and exciting field, which does bring certain risks - but at the same time, the potential is unmatched. We are currently undergoing a massive Longevity Revolution, where how medicine is practiced, drugs are developed, is changing. Tech giants are becoming our new healthcare providers. Medicine is becoming more personalized. I am often invited to speak at longevity and private wealth conferences, where investors ask me the same question. I start by explaining my personal "3 Horizons" framework to help map the longevity space: Horizon 1: technology currently available that has the potential to expand our lifespans to 100 years, such as DIY diagnostics, wearables, digital healthcare delivery, medical software and apps; Horizon 2: emerging technology with the potential to expand our lifespans to 150 years, such as genome therapy and editing, stem cell therapy, nano-robots, AI-based diagnostics and drug discovery, smart hospitals; Horizon 3: age reversal, brain-computer integration, avatars, Internet of the Body.
We invest across all three Horizons, but new investors may want to focus on the first two: early diagnostics, AI in healthcare, life extension technologies in general, and therapies addressing age-related diseases. As for dealing with investment risks, it is really important to have access to the scientific and medical expertise in this field, because scientific due diligence is a key part of the investment decision-making.
You've recently set up the Longevity Vision Fund. How do you hope to differentiate it from others (Juvenescence has a strong focus on regenerative medicine, for instance)?
Longevity is such a new field for investment that there is room for everybody, which inspires collaboration and exchange of knowledge. As such, we don't tend to compete or actively differentiate ourselves from others in this field - ultimately, we are all in this together with the same goal of improving health and longevity for humanity. We also love what Juvenescence does in the field - especially their collaborations with the world's leading scientific hubs. Apart from Juvenescence, we also have other investments, including Life Biosciences and more - and we all share the same vision of extending healthy human lifespans and making the world a better place.
In your upcoming book you're set to cover the ethical 'trade-offs' of extended lifespans. What do you think could be the biggest benefit and the biggest detriment to us all living to 200?
I think the goal is not just to have "extended lifespans" or "to live to 200" (although this is my personal aspiration!) but the improved healthspan, the energy and the wellbeing that we could enjoy into the longer years of our lives. If we look from the perspective of healthy longevity, many detriments commonly associated with longer lifespans, such as an aging population, overburdening the economy, excessive medical costs become irrelevant. Extended healthy longevity means healthier populations, lower medical costs, a more productive workforce, a later retirement. In fact, as an investor, I consider longevity to be the biggest economic opportunity of the century.