An Interview with Karl Pfleger

Karl Pfleger is one of the more prolific angel investors in the longevity industry. Naturally he is an investor in Repair Biotechnologies, the company that I co-founded with Bill Cherman and which is currently focused on a gene therapy approach to reversal of atherosclerosis. In addition to his investment and conference-going activities, Pfleger runs the very useful Aging Biotech Info resource, which has expanded from the starting point of a list of companies in the longevity industry to its present state of listing of a great many more items: conferences, books, blogs, interventions, diagnostics, and so forth. In the podcast interview linked below, topics include epigenetic clocks and the need for improvement in measurement of biological age, current interventions, and the state of the field as a whole.

Unlocking the Secrets of Lifespan Extension With Karl Pfleger

I worked at Google for about a decade doing practical, big data, machine learning stuff and then I decided to refocus my attention on things that would most help the world, most help the most people in the world. And cursory analysis suggested that besides the poorest of the poor, you know, living in sub-Saharan Africa and places like that on less than $2 a day, the the highest leverage other thing in the world was to fight against the aging process, because aging is what kills the vast majority of people, 70% globally, 92 and a half percent plus in Western developed countries. That's really a science and technology play more than a lobbying political play. So I decided and also I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, which was kind of ground zero for that science and the biotech and the entrepreneurship and so I just basically whole hog switched fields and have just been ramping up the bio knowledge ever since. I started with philanthropy then got into investing and I'm also doing a whole bunch of other things involved in community building and information dissemination.

I started in the field in the mid 2010s, there was it was much smaller field. It's grown considerably, which is great. It's still a very small corner of the overall biotech world. But but it's growing because there's an inevitable logic of treating these biological causes that underlie so many different bad conditions. But when I got into the field, it was small, but there was still quite a lot written about it. There were books and there were blogs, and it was a lot of blobs of text, and there were some companies already in the space, and I decided to get into investing in the 2016-ish and started investing in biotech companies in 2017. One of the things I did once I started doing that was every time I went to a conference or an event where any company was mentioned, I wrote it down on the list and quickly my list of companies was 100 to 120 companies.

You know, I hadn't investigated each one, so I wasn't sure whether I counted each one as, you know, really being an aging and longevity related company or not. But so it was all new. So I didn't have an exact count 100, 120. And I kept reading these stories of people talking who were giving an overview of the whole aging or longevity field, talking about how there's 30 companies where there's 40 companies or usually there's 25 companies, something like that. And I was like, wow, these people don't know about a lot of the companies. And I would talk to the professors who work in the field. So just north of me here in San Francisco, there's a place called the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. It's the largest independent. It's essentially a sort of Ivy League Stanford or MIT level biology department, sitting all by itself without the rest of the university around it. Every single one of the 20 pitches are all focused specifically on the biology of aging. And that was the most ground zero at academia for aging stuff. And they didn't even realize how many companies there were at the moment.

So I decided that instead of keeping my list of companies as sort of some kind of internal secret to make my investing better, I would just open source it, essentially. And so I put it together and put it on this website. I called it Aging Biotech Info, and I made it just pro-bono, open, free for everybody. And it's worked pretty well. The goals, the use cases I envisioned when I started it were I wanted the post-docs and Ph.D. students and even professors to realize they had an exit ramp from academia if they wanted to do something else. As they could start a company. And I wanted the investors, the tech people in Silicon Valley, the venture capital groups, to realize that they should be putting more than a few percent in this field, that there was a lot more going on than they thought, and they should be ramping up to five, ten, 15% of their mostly tech portfolios, which they have done. I'll never know how much this website contributed to any of that, but that has certainly helped.


Seems like someone could expand his database to be a bit more user-friendly ( put into an easy to use software?), and, even more critical ( imo), update it on a regular basis. I've always thought about gathering all companies and not only expanding as more enter the field, but update the companies currently on the list. Probably a huge undertaking, though. But, great and useful project. Thanks Karl for your contribution to this field 👍

Posted by: Robert at February 6th, 2024 11:59 AM

There are flashier ways to put a table on the internet, but none of them are as easy to update, or especially as easy to add collaborators to, as Google Sheets, which underlie's tables. Once the site mostly fulfills its goal of becoming a 1-stop repository for linking to everything important in the aging/longevity space on the internet (outside of academia), in a well-organized & structured way, then I'll turn attention to maybe making the UI a bit smoother, but right now it works pretty well (on desktop browsers, anyway). I looked at AirTable, Notion, the idea of custom-building javascript. Doing tables in Wiki software, etc. They were all clunkier or suffered from code-fragility, or had other issues.

If anyone wants to help update the companies table, just email the contact email on the site. I'm willing to give comment level permissions to any readers. And would love help coming up with updated links & summary text.

Posted by: Karl Pfleger at February 11th, 2024 11:17 AM
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