Looking Forward to the Longevity Industry in 2021

Having written retrospectives for 2020, longevity industry observers are now looking forward to what we might expect in 2021. This survey of companies and projects in the longevity industry is unbiased from the point of view of whether or not the treatments under development are expected to have a sizable effect on human aging. Can they slow aging or actually reverse aging meaningfully? It is more focused on progress on startups, business matters, and potential for profit.

One of the many issues with the highly regulated medical development market is that success in investment is only somewhat connected to success in generating a therapy. Liquidity events for investors in early stage biotech companies occur well before clinical approval by regulators, and thus incentives are not completely aligned. Merely fleshing out animal data and applying hype to a given mechanism (see the Sitris Pharmaceuticals story, for example) can work just as well as actually setting out to build a viable therapy that can have sizable effects on aging, when it comes to giving investors a sizable return on investment.

Further, the market values (a) incremental, modest advances that are easier to explain to regulators, and that fit in existing frameworks for evaluation over (b) radical, ambitious advances based on entirely new approaches that will require greater effort to obtain approval. In the treatment of aging as a medical condition, we need those radical, ambitious advances. The incremental, modest advances (such as yet another way to mimic calorie restriction, as if we need more of those) are not going to move the needle all that much on human life span. People will still be aging and dying in much the same way as their parents and grandparents did.

Top 10 Things to Watch in the Longevity Industry in 2021

Jim Mellon, billionaire patron saint of longevity investing, announced in September 2020 that he would take his longevity portfolio company, Juvenescence, public within 6-12 months. Juvenescence's diversified portfolio of 11 assets spans the gamut of senolytics, AI companies, regenerative medicine, and nutraceutical products. The Juvenescence IPO will be the biggest development in public market longevity investing since Unity Biotechnology went public in 2018. And because Juvenescence is a diversified portfolio of longevity companies it best represents the entire industry going forward.

Kristen Fortney's AI / computational drug discovery company BioAge recently closed a Series C round and will use the funds to initiate Phase 2 clinical trials this year. BioAge uses AI, machine learning, and systems biology models to mine multi-omics patient datasets and identify existing drugs that are likely to treat age-related disease. Since BioAge's strategy is to repurpose existing drugs they are able to go straight to Phase 2 trials.

Nir Barzilai recently gave an online talk with the Foresight Institute. In the talk he mentioned that an unnamed wealthy individual was in the process of setting up a longevity foundation that would invest $1 billion into anti-aging research and companies per year. Barzilai said the foundation would be announced in January of this year. Who could be the mysterious donor? Nir Barzilai indicated it is the same mysterious person that is funding the TAME trial and is a well known tech billionaire. My guess: It's Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle. He has a net worth of $88 billion and is 76 years old. Ellison has also donated to longevity causes in the past through the Ellison Medical Foundation. My second guess is Sergey Brin of Google.

2020 was a disastrous year for Unity Biotechnology. But 2021 could be a year of redemption for Unity. Their new Phase 1 trial for UBX1325, a Bcl-xL inhibitor to treat Diabetic Macular Edema (DME), will be completed in the first half of this year, with a proof of concept trial to follow shortly afterwards. I am cautiously optimistic for Unity Biotechnology. But I am also totally unworried if they fail, as there are many many other senolytics companies preparing for clinical trials - many with 2nd generation targeted approaches that may prove superior to Unity's.

2021 will be the year that more senolytics companies finally join Unity in the clinical race. And many of these companies are using 2nd gen targeted approaches to clear senescent cells. FoxBio, a Juvenescence and Ichor Therapeutics senolytics joint venture, is planning Phase 1 trials for an osteoarthritis drug this year. Numeric Biotech, a spin out from Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, is planning to test the FOXO4-DRI peptide. Senolytic Therapeutics, one of David Sinclair's Life Biosciences daughter companies, has two mature assets that should be close to ready for clinical trials - although there is no set date.

Comments

"Nir Barzilai recently gave an online talk with the Foresight Institute. In the talk he mentioned that an unnamed wealthy individual was in the process of setting up a longevity foundation that would invest $1 billion into anti-aging research and companies per year. Barzilai said the foundation would be announced in January of this year. Who could be the mysterious donor? Nir Barzilai indicated it is the same mysterious person that is funding the TAME trial and is a well known tech billionaire. My guess: It's Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle. He has a net worth of $88 billion and is 76 years old. Ellison has also donated to longevity causes in the past through the Ellison Medical Foundation. My second guess is Sergey Brin of Google."

Biolife4d which prints hearts wrote in their latest newsletter that they now will get significant funding from a person. Maybe related?

Posted by: thomas.a at January 12th, 2021 5:53 PM

The market values (c) evidence of demand (even excited interest/ willing time/spend in the mid-term - 5 - 10 years) in the target populations and in the target demographics/ locations -and- supply of researchers/ staff/ clinics/ top scientists/ infrastructure availability. Witness EV car roll-out. EV investors pushed companies to show evidence of ongoing improvements in home charging, range anxiety solutions, access and public sector take-up for varied public charging. The trade-offs were small, light, plasticky early models -- knowing that first adopter number was more important than general 'desirable model configuration' appeal. Also, EVs as saviors of the world on the anti-oil sentiment was a mistake - 'environmentalism' is fringe - not mainstream. This blog is continually in denial of the simple 'truth' that there is no evidence of widespread craving for extensively extended life span in the common people irrespective of how rational and sensible and bizarre-otherwise it may appear to the regular readers and many tech/life savvy groupings and me. This denies the 'build it and they will come' wishful signaling. This is not a deal-breaker and should not dissuade the current approach. Its just time to be a realist and not an optimist. Building a brand on a narrow 'optimistic' value system; hoping that it will spread and become mainstream is possible, but the current message is not the most direct path to that mainstream. Advancing a brand based on 'therapies for age-related diseases that are otherwise diminishing your current lifestyle choices' IS. This is a subtle and crucial difference. You are selling to regulars folks who just want to continue to be 'regular' longer. Take this approach more often. Several cosmetic conditions require medical advances. How do they mediate with the FDA. Endpoint definition? Trial definition and type? Nothing is wrong, but by taking the 'moral high ground' and not 'building the market' without adapting the message is making everything less efficient (finance attraction-wise), longer, and less appealing to the public and by some extension, the regulatory authorities. This may mean aligning with 'less medicinal' approaches to get access to a bigger pie of money and people.

Posted by: Jer at January 12th, 2021 8:57 PM

I'm hopeful about the actions of this person who is providing $1B/year to longevity companies for 2 reasons.

1. Obviously, that's a freaken lot of money, be awesome if SENS could acquire that amount. But, maybe that will move the dial a bit in this field.

2. If word gets out who is providing the funds, maybe other high net worth people will also be persuaded to do the same.

Posted by: Robert at January 12th, 2021 10:20 PM

@Robert
There's no demand because there's nothing proven to work. Anti-aging is a clear example of a new disruptive market. You don't know you need Senolytics until they are everyone for humans. And then suddenly everybody will use them. If with one set of treatments you can make 80s the new sixties all the high paying professionals will be lining up , as it is a new lease on life and they can earn them money back. It will be the "shut up and take my money " meme...

Posted by: Cuberat at January 12th, 2021 10:55 PM

@Cuberat,

You can't take it with you, even if you make it to Mars:)

Not to invest in Longevity as a wealthy middle aged or older person is naive, if you don't believe in god. I doubt getting returns should be a concern as you get up in age.

Posted by: Robert at January 12th, 2021 11:16 PM

@Cuberat "you can make 80s the new sixties" I expect 50s become new thirties :D

Posted by: SilverSeeker at January 13th, 2021 8:03 AM

SENS end year campaign reached a total of over 2 millions dollars in donations. ($2,355,443)

Posted by: Jonathan Weaver at January 13th, 2021 11:42 AM

@SilverSeeker
That would be perfect, but the first few generations of treatments will merely square the curves. For example , it seems that before 45-55 the senecent cells are not the primary manifestation of wedding.

Anyway, the 55 is still quite ok as an age. It has its problems but outside of hollywood and professional sports is pretty functional and for many people is the top of the career. So every year to postpone the retirement and disability is pretty valuable.

Posted by: Cuberat at January 13th, 2021 6:57 PM

@Cuberat turning 50s into 30s needs to tweak just a few glitches in human machinery. Like why AKG (AlphaKetoGlutarate) production, the one indispensable ingredient for collagen synthesis, drops so much after 40, and continues this freefall ever after like in the best Hitchock's movie... One of the reasons is TGFBeta (from senescent cells at this age mainly) and the fibrosis caused. Removing enough of senescent cells and supplementing CaAKG/MgAKG will have unexpected synergistic effects I think***...

Posted by: SilverSeeker at January 14th, 2021 9:29 AM

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