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One of the Juvenescence founders is here enthusiastic about the potential for treating aging as a medical condition. While one should always filter the remarks of people who run companies via a cynical view of their incentives, as talking up the company, the industry, and the prospects is very much expected, it is in fact the case that the longevity industry as a whole has tremendous potential. It will up-end the whole of healthcare, all expectations of what it means to be older, and will most likely become the largest industry on the planet. It will alleviate more suffering, pain, and death than any other human endeavor to date, by a very large margin.
Exactly which of the specific projects and companies will turn out to produce the lion’s share of the benefits is hard to predict in advance. That said, I am of course willing to argue that following the SENS methodology of repairing underlying damage is going to be far more effective, on balance, than interventions that target downstream metabolic states or processes. Thus of the present set of approaches, senolytic therapies to clear senescent cells seem far more likely to change the world significantly than is the case for, say, mTOR inhibitors that mimic some of the effects of calorie restriction.
Earlier this year, an executive from Juvenescence-backed AgeX predicted the field of longevity will eventually “dwarf the dotcom boom.” Greg Bailey, the UK-based anti-aging biotech’s CEO, certainly hopes so. The business of anti-aging is gaining steam – Bank of America has forecast the market will balloon to $610 billion by 2025, from an estimated $110 billion currently – but investors are cautious.
“I think there’s a huge amount of skepticism. There’s an enormous number of charlatans … I understand why they would be thinking you know, is this real? Walk into your local drugstore, you’re going to see about 50 products that claim to be anti-aging, and I can assure you that none of them are.” Bailey suggested that investors are not quite as enthusiastic about placing bets on anti-aging, as they are in the tech world. “Institutions tend to move in lockstep when they’re investing. VCs are astonishing, you know, if one of them buys the yellow halter top, all of them have to buy a yellow halter top. We’re dramatically underserved. It’s not getting the exposure that tech gets, considering the size of the market. There is a disconnect on what investors – sophisticated investors – institutions, how they’re viewing this, I don’t think they quite grasp how fast this is going to happen, and how big it’s going to be.”
Juvenescence has now raised $165 million in the last 18 months – in January it unveiled the first $46 million tranche of the Series B – and the money is being used to fund longevity projects with the lofty goal of extending human lifespans to 150 years. It is a popular vision. Inspired by Juvenescence, venture capitalist Sergey Young – who is in charge of all things longevity at the non-profit XPRIZE and VC fund BOLD Capital Partners – unveiled a $100 million fund with the same goal in February. Google-owned stealthy biotech Calico is after the same prize – and has partnered with AbbVie.
Juvenescence has been busy, collaborating with different groups and setting up joint ventures, such as Alex Zhavoronkov’s AI shop at Insilico Medicine – and has invested in firms including AgeX and LyGenesis. In February, Juvenescence debuted an anti-aging joint venture with the Buck Institute dedicated to inducing ketosis. In recent months, it spawned a new biotech called Souvien Therapeutics, which is developing medicines to address the epigenetic underpinnings of neurodegenerative diseases, and injected $6.5 million in equity financing into a preclinical metabolic disease biotech dubbed BYOMass. Juvenescence will maintain a focus on regeneration. “I’m mindful that if you live to 150, you know, people don’t want to be all wrinkled, and in a wheelchair. So what we want to be able to do is regenerate tissues.”