Crypto auction raises over $5m for longevity research

VitaDAO raises 400% of expectation and will use it to fund longevity research and projects that promote healthspan and lifespan.

The world’s first decentralised intellectual property collective VitaDAO recently held its genesis auction, allowing the public to bid for an initial 10% of its VITA governance tokens. Seeking a minimum raise of $1.25 million, the auction raised an impressive $5.1 million, which will be used to acquire, support and finance the development of new therapeutics in the longevity field. The auction saw more than 400 members join VitaDAO, with more than 100 more expected to join to help in its day-to-day running.

Longevity.Technology: We’ve been following the progress of VitaDAO with interest and this latest milestone is a clear indication of the appetite for its unique approach to funding the development of longevity therapeutics. We caught up with one of the community’s co-initiators, Tyler Golato of virtual accelerator platform Molecule, to find out more about the auction and what happens now.

VitaDAO is a decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO), a novel organisational structure that can be described as a digital, borderless cooperative. The batch auction process developed by Gnosis on the Ethereum blockchain allows the community to set a price for tokens and determine a market cap for the DAO. If you’re interested in the details of how the VitaDAO auction panned out, you can check it all out here.

“We set a minimum of around $1.25 million, which was modelled on budget justification for what we would need to be able to support five projects for a period of one to two years,” says Golato. “So we were quite excited by the general enthusiasm. As in any auction, most of the pressure comes in the last 30 minutes – the people putting in serious money wait until the very end of the auction, even the last one to two minutes to place their bids. So in the last 30 minutes there was probably double the volume of the entire auction, which was really cool to see.”

When we speak to Golato after the auction, he estimates the fully diluted market cap of the DAO to be in the region of $62 million, based on the token pricing at the time.
“At the moment, the token is trading slightly above the option price that it was s

old for,” he says. “But that could change quickly and these things are quite dynamic. And this is why, from a strategic perspective, most of the DAO’s working capital will ultimately be diversified beyond crypto price fluctuations.”

More funding = more projects

By raising far more than its minimum goal, VitaDAO is now able to broaden its scope into funding many more projects, and is also considering funding both smaller ad larger projects.

“The goal is to deploy all of the funding that we’ve raised, so whether that happens over six months or a year will really depend on the projects that we come across,” says Golato. “Some people we’ve spoken to are only looking for $50,000, so we’re getting a little bit more flexible in our thinking. Maybe it’s not just going to be $250k tickets, maybe it’ll be anywhere from $50k to a million, depending on the nature of the project. But those are still active conversations within the DAO.”

As the leader of the first project on VitaDAO, the University of Copenhagen’s Associate Professor Morten Scheibye-Knudsen stands to be the first to benefit from funding for his Longevity Molecule project.

“There’s been a lot of support for that project, but as the first project in the DAO it will still have to pass a formal vote for a specific amount of funding,” says Golato. “The first tranche of funding is $250,000, and follow-on funding is possible, dependent on certain milestones and the project having success. VitaDAO is now essentially a resource for him to be able to apply for funding.”

New projects expected soon

VitaDAO is already talking to researchers about potential projects to be considered for funding.

“There’s one that’s on brain cell replacement therapy, which is super interesting,” says Golato. “Another one is focused on immune regeneration and immune aging, and there’s several that are focused on neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and brain aging more generally. Some of these are very early stage, preclinical projects that are still in academia.”

Researchers interested in submitting a project for funding can find the application link on the VitaDAO homepage.

“It’s a relatively simple application – we’re most interested in the people behind the project,” says Golato. “What we want to see are people with amazing ideas and who believe in those ideas relentlessly, but also people who resonate with the DAO’s vision and what it’s trying to do. These are people who are willing to work a little bit more in the open, and who like the idea of having this international community to engage and get feedback from, and have them along for the ride.”

The road ahead

At the end of the day, Golato acknowledges that VitaDAO is something of an experiment, and there is still a long way to go to see if it can deliver on its aims.

“There hasn’t been a huge amount of innovation in the research funding space, or in the way that we do science,” he says. “People have been saying for a long time we need something new, we need new ideas – in everything from funding to publishing to open science and how we work. So what’s exciting for me is that the crypto space gives you the experimental grounds to try something relatively quickly, and to model and improve it – like a sandbox environment.

“I think we’ll learn a huge amount with this and, hopefully, it will have a serious influence on how scientists think about their funding sources, and how people go about creating more innovative structures to generate funding in the future. Scientists are typically open, progressive, innovative sort of people and many of them have been quite receptive to the idea so far, but this will be nothing more than the sum of the community that rallies around it.”

Images courtesy of VitaDAO