Andrew Steele: Curing aging is a question of investment, not time

Best-selling author says that more investment into more hallmarks of aging is needed to drive the longevity field forward.

The 2023 edition of the exclusive Longevity Investors Conference is fast approaching, bringing together investors, companies and researchers in Gstaad, Switzerland in September. One of the speakers at this year’s conference is scientist, writer and presenter Dr Andrew Steele, the author of the best-selling book Ageless: The new science of getting older without getting old. When it comes to his views on longevity, Steele sits firmly in the camp that aging, like cancer, is something that humanity should be focused on curing.

Longevity.Technology: Last year, Steele told us he was “absolutely convinced” curing aging is possible, but that significant questions remain around how quickly we can get there. As he prepares to speak to more than 100 investors at LIC, we caught up with Steele to see how his views on longevity have evolved, and what he would say to those considering investing in the field.

First and foremost, Steele, who recently published a new, free chapter of Ageless on the moral, ethical and social consequences of treating aging, believes that longevity represents a huge “human opportunity” for investors.

Best-selling author has high hopes for senolytics and wants society to realise that aging doesn’t have to be inevitable.

“When you think about treating aging, what we’re really talking about is treating this whole range of different diseases – cancer, heart disease, stroke dementia – all of these things are caused by the aging process,” he says. “So, there’s a huge opportunity to make a big difference in the world.”

A new paradigm for medical treatment

But even for those looking at it from purely a financial standpoint, Steele says the upside to longevity investment is compelling.

“If these drugs can potentially slow down or reverse the aging process, then they ultimately have a market of every living human,” he says. “You can imagine a situation where everyone over the age of 50 or 60, once they’ve accumulated enough of whatever age-related change your drug is targeting, will want to start using that medication. It’s going to be a completely new paradigm for medical treatment, and it’s a huge opportunity for investors.”

Of course, investing in longevity isn’t as simple as it sounds – the field is vast and diverse, with hundreds of companies targeting different hallmarks, mechanisms and drivers of aging. So, what advice does Steele have for investors considering putting their money into the sector?

“I’d be trying to find the places where people aren’t currently investing as much,” he says, pointing out that “hot” areas like senolytics and cellular reprogramming have already received huge amounts of funding.

“There are there are lots of other hallmarks of aging – at least eight to ten – that aren’t receiving the same level of investor attention. I think there are probably some great opportunities out there for investors who are willing to comb through some of the less flashy stuff that gets less press than other areas.”

Curing aging won’t be a single treatment

Steele’s hope is that investment will also extend into the basic science needed to advance some of these areas to the point where potential treatments are ready to turn into biotech or pharma endeavors.

“I believe these treatments will often turn out to be complementary to other areas of longevity development,” he says. “I often talk about a cure for aging, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s going to be a single pill – we’re probably going to have dozens of different approaches to tackle lots of different age-related changes. So, I’d really encourage investors to go out and try and find some of these other age-related changes that aren’t getting aren’t getting quite so much limelight and see if there are some investable opportunities.”

A year is a long time in longevity, so how does Steele feel the field has progressed since we last spoke?

“I think there has been some positive, incremental progress,” he says, citing Life Biosciences’ recent success with senolytics in primates, and the identification of taurine deficiency as a potential driver of aging, as examples. 

“There have been lots of these small incremental changes, but I find it a bit frustrating that the field is still comparatively underinvested in, both in biotech, and in the basic science from the government side as well,” adds Steele. “And so, although things are moving in the right direction, I think the progress is slower than it could have been.”

Success depends on investment, not time

Longevity science is a field where predictions about timeframes to achieving certain milestones are often bandied around. It’s a practice that Steele feels is unhelpful.

“I think the way people often try and give their predictions as a certain number of years away is a bit wrongheaded,” he says. “I think we should really think about developments in science as being a certain investment away from fruition.”

Essentially, explains Steele, there are a certain number of “nerd hours” between where we are now and getting to the point of being able to treat the aging process sufficiently well to bring it under medical control. And those nerd hours cost money.

“I don’t know how much money that’s necessarily going to involve – it’s hard to look at current levels of investment and multiply that up,” he says. “But what I do know is, the more we invest, the faster a lot of this science can progress.”

Investors: don’t sit on the fence

While he acknowledges this sounds like he’s dodging the question, Steele is nonetheless optimistic of the current progress towards curing aging.

“I really think we could make serious headway against aging in time for most people alive today,” he says. “We’ve already got enough investment in some of these early areas, like senolytics or pre-existing medications like rapamycin and metformin. Some of these things could be demonstrated to work in a clinical trial in the next five years. If they’re shown to work, we could be thinking about having an antiaging medicine within the next five or 10 years.”

“Those people who live long enough to benefit from it are then going live potentially a little bit longer in good health, which means we might even live long enough for scientists to develop whatever stem cell or gene therapy treatments that might sound like sci-fi now.”

“If you’re on the fence about investing in this, then consider this: if you delay, then potentially you, your children, and people you care about are going to live less long as a result.”

The Longevity Investors Conference is held held September 27-29 in Gstaad in Switzerland. Book your spot before July 1 to take advantage of its early bird packages.