On the last day of 2021, we reflect on some of the most interesting developments in the wider longevity landscape.
Earlier this week, we showcased some of the ways the longevity landscape has grown and developed in 2021. However, the growth and pace of the antiaging economy means that there are more stories than column inches, so we are delighted to dive back into the landscape and shine a spotlight on some of the developments that are shaping the space and shaping our future.
Crypto makes its presence felt
The worlds of cryptocurrency, blockchain and longevity have collided this year in several very interesting ways. VitaDAO‘s crypto auction raised 400% of expectation, gathering in over $5 million for longevity research, and the Longevity Science Foundation began to use blockchain technology in its funding selection process.
We sat down with serial entrepreneur and founder of crypto-conglomerate Moon Rabbit Angel Versetti, who told us: “Crypto has already done things some thought impossible. If death is the ultimate frontier, who’s not a better candidate to break it than the crazy dreamers from the crypto space? At the same time, I am acutely aware of the massive scientific barriers and the multitude of dead ends researchers of longevity have encountered so far. So fundamental research, radical experimentation and innovative approach will be required. This is where a combination of knowledgeable longevity researchers and optimistic crypto dreamers may align powerfully.”
2021 also saw cryptocurrency HEX founder Richard Heart’s creation of a new currency, Pulse. Prior to the launch of this new cryptocurrency, Heart made headlines with an Airdrop, in which he gave away some Pulse to those who donated to the SENS Research Foundation (SRF) during a specific ‘sacrifice’ window.
“Cancer and heart disease kill 80% of us,” Heart told us. “Curing either only gets us 3 extra years of life, because the next thing kills us. We can do better than curing either by focusing on repairing the damage early! Every year billions of dollars goes into research that at the very best maxes out at 3 years of value. While research that could get us more than 3 years of healthy life goes unfunded! We have a chance for outsized returns because while other research has billions put into it, rejuvenation research doesn’t yet.”
With a whopping $25,000,000 for medical research raised, the future relationship of crypto and longevity looks bright.
Advancing legislation and policies that aim to increase healthy human lifespan
The Alliance for Longevity Initiatives (A4LI) was founded this year to advance legislation and policies that aim to increase healthy human lifespan. With a board packed with longevity heavyweights (including James Peyer, Sonia Arrison, Christine Peterson and Joe DeSantis, Newt Gingrich’s Chief Strategist), A4LI is the first and only 501(c)(4) non-profit organisation founded with the goal of creating social and political action around the issues of combating age-related chronic conditions and increasing our number of healthy, disease-free years.
Dylan Livingston, the A4LI’s Founder and President, told us: “Ultimately our goal is to make longevity a completely bipartisan issue. We look for longevity to eventually act as a political filter for politicians on both the right and the left, and the long-term goal is to make it so that no candidate on either ticket can run unless they’re pro-longevity, pro-increasing healthy lifespan.”
Livingston’s passion for furthering longevity politically is clear: “Our goal is to create a wide-reaching coalition of the top scientists, investors, advocates and thought leaders in longevity medicine and use the coalition to more effectively demand change from politicians. Increasing healthy human lifespan is something worth fighting to achieve, for many reasons, and it’s our goal to make policymakers see the light.” We look forward to the illumination!
Grants that propel longevity research towards maximum impact
Seeking to cut the Gordianesque knot of red tape, the Longevity Impetus Grants launched this year, with the aim of speeding up research that slows down aging. Seeking to have a broad impact on the longevity field, the grants will support projects that challenge assumptions, develop new tools and methodologies, discover new ways to reverse aging processes, and/or synthesise isolated manifestations of aging into a systemic perspective. With $26 million to give away (including 1500 Ethereum from Vitalik Buterin), grants will be $10k-500k, with decisions made in three weeks.
Martin Borch Jensen, CSO of Gordian Biotechnology and architect of the Longevity Impetus Grants told us: “There are two things we hope to accomplish with these grants,” he told us. “First, we want the grants to be an impetus for scientists to pursue the ideas they think could have the greatest impact. We’ll do this by supporting bold ideas sourced from the entire longevity research community, with a mindset of ‘what could go right’.
“Second, we hope that the grants will be an Impetus for funding research with a greater sense of urgency: minimize paperwork, make decisions fast, don’t rely on free labor by scientists, and create incentives that allow important work to happen even if it won’t end up as a Nature paper.”
In pursuit of the 120+ lifespan – and driving longevity medicine from theoretical concepts to real-world applications
The Longevity Science Foundation sprung into existence this year, with a commitment to distributing more than $1 billion over the next ten years to research, institutions and projects advancing healthy human longevity and extending the healthy human lifespan to more than 120 years.
With an aptly-named “Visionary Board” of leading longevity researchers (Evelyne Bischof, Andrea B Maier, Eric Verdin, Matt Kaeberlein and Alex Zhavoronkov) the fund has a bold and simple drive – projects that can realise rapid change, making “a significant difference in people’s lives as soon as possible” and setting a hopeful goal of possibly effecting that difference within a five-year time frame.
Biotech: the next generation
Launching nationwide in the US this year, non-profit Nucleate seeks to (boldly) empower the next generation of biotech leaders. Led by academic trainees and dedicated to empowering future biotech leaders, it caters to exploding interest among graduate scientific trainees and business students in commercialising biotechnology. Nucleate will complement traditional institutional ecosystems and streamline company formation to ensure founders can focus on translating cutting-edge science.
Nucleate is set to be a reactor generating more energy for the sector. As we surpass genetic limits and unlock cellular reprogramming, biotech will become key to many industries that impact on longevity, whether that’s synthetic biology, biotech crops, lab-grown meat or environmental biotech. Add it all to the sectors directly related to longevity, both medical and industrial, and it’s clear why we need biotech leaders who can foster research, develop their ideas and scale their companies. By identifying future biotech entrepreneurs and arming them with proven training, an exceptional network and funded fellowships, all without the need to give up equity in their companies, Nucleate will remove barriers and help founders concentrate on building transformational technologies.