SENS Research Foundation’s Aubrey de Grey on increasing investor appetites and the elephant in the Longevity room.
Longevity.Technology: Aubrey is a plain-speaking biomedical gerontologist who is committed to combating the aging process. We started by asking him about what he was up to at the moment.
Aubrey de Grey: SENS Research Foundation suffered a fair amount of slowdown as a result of the pandemic, but we’re picking up now. I think the most exciting thing we’re doing is continuing to strengthen the pipeline between the really early-stage translational work we do at SENS and the “just investable” stage work pursued by startups in our space, including our own spinouts. Basically, the appetite of some investors is increasingly emphasising projects that are so early that they would historically be viewed as pre-competitive; that boundary is now becoming very blurred.
Longevity.Technology: What isn’t getting sufficient exposure?
Aubrey de Grey: I would say that the single biggest elephant in the room is the simultaneous administration of multiple therapies. It is subliminally understood that damage repair is the future of Longevity medicine, and also that the damage repair paradigm is inescapably a divide-and-conquer one that will entail combination therapies, but the medical industry is really not set up to develop and promote that way of working. At some point that has to change, and I’m hopeful that investors at the more courageous end of the spectrum will soon find ways to start that process in earnest.
Longevity.Technology: Are you seeing many investors who are new to Longevity – do they need educating?
Aubrey de Grey: Mostly the investors who reach out to me are pretty new and need a bunch of education. But there’s nothing wrong with that – and anyway, they are self-selected – they know what they don’t know, and I’m the top Google hit.
Longevity.Technology: Our survey found that most investors appear to prefer seed-to-early-stage investing, have you found this to be case in your networks?
Aubrey de Grey: Absolutely. At this point I don’t see how things could be otherwise, actually, because the investment opportunities consist almost entirely of startups, which in turn is because the underlying technologies are so new.
Longevity.Technology: We also saw that senolytics are a very popular category for investors – are you seeing an increased appetite from investors?
Aubrey de Grey: I do see that tendency too, and it’s not surprising to me, because senolytics have two huge things going for them: they are bona fide rejuvenators (i.e. they repair a type of aging damage rather than just slowing down its accumulation), which is much more exciting to people old enough to have money to invest, and they are only just now going into clinical trials and showing impressive results, so they are opportunities for first movers.