As the first month of 2022 drew to a close, the internet was abuzz with trend predictions for the year ahead. Bloggers, Twitter influencers and established business moguls alike were, and still are, incredibly excited about the new opportunities afforded by an explosion of innovation in Web3. However, something you may have missed in scrolling pages of celebrity-backed NFT drops or speculations about the metaverse was the launch of a new company called Altos Labs, reportedly backed by Amazon’s former CEO Jeffrey Bezos.
The language that followed the launch was largely typical of how many mainstream journalists talk about the longevity sector, words like mysterious and secret. I’ve written in earlier articles that there are a lot of misconceptions around the longevity sector, and this new round of headlines seems to confirm this as still accurate.
I believe there is a lot more to the longevity sector than secret deals featuring the planet’s wealthiest billionaires. The space is ripe with interested investors, groundbreaking discoveries and development opportunities. The message is clear — longevity is here to stay. And for the crypto industry, or a world populated with trend-setting, tech-savvy individuals, the time is now to start getting up to speed on this incredible space.
While it was wrapped up in mysterious media discourse, the Altos Labs deal was indicative of the high-level interest in the diverse longevity sector. With a reported $3 billion backing on day one, the deal is believed to be the largest biotech deal to date and has attracted the talent to match. The first executive team is composed of globally renowned scientists, CEOs and doctors eager to seek new heights in the science of anti-ageing.
The Altos announcement was reminiscent of Calico Labs, another longevity company announced in 2013 by Google co-founder Larry Page. While the Google spin-off has been subject to inquiries about its productivity, it successfully published its first preprint on cell reprogramming in May 2021. It is not only tech CEOs making headlines about investment: Deals from the past two months alone include areas like stem cell therapy, liver regeneration, senescence targeting, reproductive longevity and more.
It’s clear that the planet’s top innovators are looking to live longer. It’s up to us to make sure that longevity technology is accessible to all when it reaches public use.
Insilico Medicine, a Hong Kong-based drug discovery company, announced a significant milestone at the end of 2021. Their first AI-discovered medicine entered human trials. The medication will be used to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic lung disease, and has shown promising early results in first studies. This marks the first AI-discovered drug to reach this stage and is an exciting indication of new inventions to come. AI is a central area of research in the longevity space, with countless applications in drug discovery and beyond.
Other new and exciting areas include cell regeneration, plant-powered supplements and progress in wearable technology that helps monitor ageing-related diseases. Charitable organizations like VitaDAO and the Longevity Science Foundation are working tirelessly to provide research funding to these early-stage ideas and help them reach public adoption.
Longevity sector development
On Deck, a company that offers acceleration programs for top talent across multiple sectors, launched its first Longevity Biotech Fellowship in June 2021. The inaugural cohort boasted participation from top longevity and biotech companies including turn.bio, Juvena Therapeutics, Retro Sciences and more. Researchers from universities including Yale, University of Washington and ETH Zurich also contributed to the curated community. On Deck is currently accepting applications for their second cohort, which will kick off later this month. The community claims to push the boundaries of traditional health and is growing the biotech ecosystem one member at a time.
Longevity is also reaching public awareness via international organizations. Martha Deevy, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, contributed to a World Economic Forum article on the societal implications of living longer lives. The idea of the multi-generational workplace, for example, has been expanded to include five or six different generations in one office space as a result of employees living longer and retiring later. Deevy noted that while old age is often seen as a time of dependence and vulnerability, this narrative is changing. New societal approaches should emphasize a lifelong balance between education, work and rest. Deevy’s article said it best: We need to pay attention to the longevity sector because the effects of living longer lives are already showing up in surprising areas of our everyday lives.
Longevity and crypto
It is clear that the longevity sector has been busy with no signs of slowing down. A recent poll showed that 70% of respondents believed the human lifespan should continue to increase if the necessary medical and technological advancements were in place to support it. Similarly, 68% of respondents reported they would be willing to take anti-ageing drugs if proven effective and free from side effects. There is an appetite for progress in longevity, and the above examples show that we are on the right path. Still, more can be done — stay tuned for more news about longevity nonfungible tokens (NFTs), crypto investment into this space and other updates.
Garri Zmudze is a managing partner at LongeVC, a Switzerland and Cyprus-based venture capital firm accelerating innovative startups in biotech and longevity. He is a seasoned business expert and angel investor with several successful exits across biotech and tech companies. He is a long-time supporter and investor in biotech companies including Insilico Medicine, Deep Longevity and Basepaws.