Growing the longevity startup wave through community

From connecting like-minded people to mentors illuminating the path to startup, the On Deck Longevity Biotech Fellowship is determined to foster longevity innovation.

Just a month and a half ago we covered the launch of the On Deck Longevity Biotech Fellowship (ODLB), “a continuous community for people to come together to build, join, or invest in revolutionary longevity biotechnology startups”. With a mission to increase the number of people working to build longevity biotechnology companies and to foster antiaging innovation, this longevity base camp boasts an array of Founding Fellows that reads like the longevity Who’s Who (Marco Quarta, Kristen Fortney, Jean Hebert, Matt Kaeberlein, Sebastian Brunemeier, Daniel Ives, Reason…).

Longevity.Technology: Seven weeks is a long time in longevity, it would seem! With new founding fellows coming on board to provide advice and guidance and the first application deadline set to close at the end of this month, we thought it was high time to remind our readers of the opportunity to be part of this programme for revolutionary longevity biotech startups – the biggest impact on human health in history could be just around the corner! With that in mind we caught up with Nathan Cheng, ODLB‘s Program Director to get his perspective on things.

Nathan Cheng is the person behind Longevity List, Longevity Marketcap and The Longevity Biotechshow, and his passion for longevity is uncontainable. Cheng is delighted with the ODLB‘s progress so far.

“It’s amazing,” he says. “We have been talking to so many incredible applicants who are super-passionate about aging – founders, aspiring founders, those looking to join startups, and investors. I’m really excited for the longevity startup community we’re building and our first cohort, which launches on September 12th.”

ODLB traces its inspiration back to a talk on YouTube by Laura Deming, in which she noted the amount of capital flowing into longevity, but not enough companies forming in the space. “There are accelerators,” Cheng explains, “but there aren’t enough longevity companies going through them, so we have a strong emphasis on finding and connecting people – early pipeline stuff. They have the passion, they have the talent and the ambition to do something and we’ll surround them with mentors to help guide them in the process and support them on their journeys, through getting funding and hopefully onto getting therapies into clinic.”

Of course, there are different stages of progress; regulation can slow progress, but Cheng says the real hurdle for emerging companies is a lack of exposure to the playbook.
“In other tech areas, people write about what happens, or explain the playbook on YouTube,” Cheng says. “But with biotech, and especially longevity biotech, it’s a nascent field, and a niche one, so it’s not very clear how to do it on your own, and the information resources aren’t nearly as available. This is why the mentorship of the ODLB is vital; mentors can help with guidance on ideation, company building, fundraising, and regulatory hurdles as well. Kristen Fortney CEO & co-founder of BioAge Labs and a founding fellow of ODLB, for example, brings a wealth of experience to the fellowship, having taken her startup from idea to multiple drugs in the clinic.”

Mindset is another area Cheng is keen to address.
“Many people just don’t see themselves as founders,” Cheng explains. “They feel they have the wrong degree, or no PhD, or not enough experience, but in our field there are actually plenty of people with non-traditional backgrounds who have transitioned in because they are passionate about longevity and have founded companies in the space: Ben Kamens at Spring Discovery, Matt Scholz at Oisín Biotechnologies, Reason at Repair Biotechnologies, &c. We want to tell them they can do it, we want to give them the confidence and support to become founders.”

Cheng describes the ODLB mentors as lighthouses, using their experience to illuminate the path for those on the fellowship, shining a light on the step-by-step process, rather than the far distant horizon.

Who is On Deck Longevity Biotech (ODLB) for?

  • Entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs looking to connect, start and grow longevity biotech startups together and at any stage.
  • Operators looking to join a longevity biotech startup.
  • Investors looking to go deeper into the longevity biotech startup ecosystem.

What is the programming like?

  • Remote-first. Some in-person events pending post-COVID.
  • 2 – 3 hours of core programming every week during the year.
  • 6-week onboarding featuring curated connections and workshops & talks covering the fundamentals of biotech entrepreneurship in the context of longevity.
  • Deep dives with experts from industry and academia
  • Networking and social events.
  • Small group sessions and mastermind groups.
  • Startup Demo Days with invited angel investors and VCs.

We’ll be covering more ODLB news next week – stay tuned!
Time is of the essence! Applications for the first cohort close on 31st August 2021. Find out more about the Longevity Biotech Fellowship and how to get involved HERE.

Images courtesy of: Robynne Hu / Unsplash, Nathan Cheng and ODLB