Yesterday at Longevity2020 was all about how the Longevity sector is growing an investment category.
Speakers included top investors, as well as the entrepreneurs behind some of the most exciting companies in the field.
Things got going with Burnbrae Group’s Jim Mellon, who set the scene. Mellon, also the Chairman of Juvenescence, spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on the markets in these volatile times. He warned that “inflation is coming back with vengeance” over the next couple of years due to the huge amounts of liquidity being pumped into the economy by central banks and governments.
Despite the obvious impact on the world economy, Mellon is optimistic about the state of the biotech and healthcare sector. “Everyone’s going to be more worried about health, and governments will be prepared to spend to avoid the next pandemic, which will come along if things don’t change – be it microbial or viral,” he said.
In terms of the direct impact on the Longevity sector, Mellon said that extending lifespan may not be top of the investment agenda for a while. However he went on to point out that technologies focused on improving the immune resilience of the elderly population will be a key focus, citing work ongoing to explore the potential benefit of rapamycin as an example.
Longevity Capital’s Kate Batz brought a Silicon Valley perspective, expressing some concern about the hype around the sector and that the complexities of the biology of aging will mean that many companies will not provide ROIs proportional to their valuations. She stressed the importance of funding the Longevity sectors that show greatest prospects for fast and economical real-world results.
AgeTech is a booming segment of the Longevity market, and Lorraine Morley of AgeTech Accelerator shared extensive data with the audience. Of particular interest was her assessment of where gaps in the market exist, and where future opportunities might lie. These ranged from virtual home diagnostics and robot assistants to mobility assistance and job retraining.
Juvenescence’s Greg Bailey guided the audience through the company’s latest developments, including its plans to raise $100 – $150 million in new capital, as well as its planned product launch of a direct-to-consumer drink product that is geroprotective, neuroprotective and cardioprotective.
Dmitry Kaminskiy of Deep Knowledge Ventures expressed concerns about the lack of an efficient experimentation platform for the Longevity industry, and the limitations of mice as a model organism. He made the case that Longevity FinTech is the “best and most de-risked sector for the next several years“ and that AI for Longevity is a positive area as “all other companies across all sectors in the industry will need AI solutions.”
Fight Aging!’s Reason returned to the stage to encourage investors to consider the key question “Is it repair?” when evaluating Longevity companies. He points out that Longevity companies “must be able to point to a specific form of cell or tissue damage or loss that is aggressively reversed by their program.”
The audience also heard from LyGenesis’ Michael Hufford, who spoke about his company’s work to commercialise regenerative medicine with its liver regeneration technology. LyGenesis is due to begin a Phase 2a clinical trial for patients with end stage liver disease this year.
The Buck Institute’s Simon Melov provided insight into Gerostate Alpha, his new company that received Seed funding from Y Combinator last year. The company targets aging via three complementary drug development pipelines: repurposing off-patent approved drugs, natural cannabinoid products, and novel small molecules.
Ronjon Nag from R42 Group shared some interesting insights into what early stage investors are looking for in potential investee companies. While having lots of customers and significant revenues are obvious plus points, a company with a team that has worked together for more than three years also scores very highly. For investors, Nag pointed out that a company in Phase 1 trials only has a 15% chance of commercialisation, so having a diversified portfolio is key.
Finally, Longevity Vision Fund’s Sergey Young shared some lessons to be learned from COVID-19 that may help guide investors towards potentially successful investments. Among several points, Young picks out AI technologies that enable early prediction of an outbreak, as well as companies developing mass diagnostics and testing capabilities.
In our final session today, it’s all about what you can do to address your Longevity now. Hear about drugs, supplements and lifestyle changes that you can make today to beat aging.