LongeVC’s Sergey Jakimov says longevity needs to demystify, be understandable and be ready to use in healthcare.
LongeVC is a Switzerland-based venture capital company that supports early-stage biotech and longevity-focused founders and startups. Its founding partner, entrepreneur Sergey Jakimov, takes his responsibility to the sector seriously, and while he is keen to help shape the future of longevity biotech, he is equally focused on keeping a weather eye on the ethical implications of biotech and longevity-focused initiatives.
While Jakimov firmly believes in human uniqueness, individuality and purpose, today’s article views us as functional units within society – this perspective is intentional, aiming to explore broader societal implications.
Longevity: from a billionaire’s turf to a universal healthcare, part 2
by Sergey Jakimov
Exploring the integration of longevity into healthcare systems reveals significant obstacles. Despite its promise and growing recognition in personal health practices, longevity encounters a complex terrain in mainstream healthcare’s structured, protocol-driven environment. Key challenges include high costs, limited awareness, and a lack of specific longevity treatments and physician training. This discussion centres on these issues, probing why healthcare systems have yet to fully adopt longevity and identifying steps towards a more proactive, health-oriented approach.
Putting the “sleep more, move more” level of essential self-care aside, real longevity medicine is currently not accessible to an average member of society despite its proven results. There are several reasons why.
First, high costs. As we speak, longevity care is a realm of high-end specialised boutique clinics that provide expensive care (think hundreds of thousands of US dollars), and they target high-net-worth patients who can afford it.
Second, there is low longevity literacy in patients – even in understanding the term “longevity.” Even if the care were made universally available, it might not even be used. Patients of all ages need to be educated on why medical care is pivoting towards health optimisation, not just disease treatment. And we need to start now, as the “do not fix what’s not broken” principle is tough to crack.
Third, there is the relative absence of proven longevity-purpose-designed drugs and regimens. This still, in some eyes, renders the discipline incomplete and not feasible for larger populations.
Fourth, there is a lack of physician training. While most doctors do not know what longevity means, becoming a longevity physician takes dedication. Fortunately, the Healthy Longevity Medicine Society (HLMS) is standardising and enabling systemic longevity physician education.
Lastly, readiness. Some societies are not simply ready for longevity. Though difficult to admit, universal longevity care in Norway, where social security, pensions, and well-being are at their highest, would have huge economic and moral consequences. Then, repeat it in Latvia, Romania, or Bulgaria, where the pensions mostly do not exceed a few hundred euros. The former seems viable; the latter seems like an evil joke.
How do we standardise and scale longevity?
Let us step back and think about how new innovations are adopted. Many of us have seen the “innovation adoption graph,” with early adopters leading and laggards catching up, but it does not explain how innovations get there. How do these new technologies stop being “new” and become part of the everyday? Through standardisation.
Standardisation is the way we live and use things. We’ve standardised safety – enter the ISO standard; we’ve standardised medical procedures and drug manufacturing – enter LASIK, surgical methodologies, GMP practises, etc. Another familiar example is how degrees, diplomas, and ECTS points standardise education. We have standardised food and welcomed quality control franchises. Standardisation of personalisation makes it accessible. If longevity care relies on our uniqueness, then uniqueness too needs to become a standard, repeatable norm.
Science, data, and efficacy are not enough to spread longevity medicine. Nor is the focus on treating only high-net-worth individuals. Standardisation and a focus on accessibility, on the other hand, should be.
There has been no attempt to imagine longevity as a turnkey solution or an end-to-end healthcare framework integrated into existing healthcare systems and usable within the same, or slightly adjusted, patient care culture.
Treatment innovations gain widespread adoption only when incorporated into Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and universal protocols. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (PD1, PDL1) and monoclonal antibody strategies exemplify this. Initially cutting-edge, these drugs have been integrated into standard cancer protocols, such as those for melanoma, and recognised for their efficacy as primary or adjuvant therapies. Thus, they transitioned from exclusive treatments for a few to accessible options for many.
Of course, introducing longevity into the traditional healthcare systems as an almost parallel continuum of care is much more complicated. After all, while the healthcare system reacts to a sick individual, longevity starts way earlier, with a clear, proactive stance. It does not, however, mean that the two cannot co-exist.
Integrating longevity into traditional healthcare will be multifaceted. Firstly, standardising longevity care protocols and frameworks is essential. Institutions like HLMS must lead in establishing these benchmarks. Secondly, medical education must expand to include longevity training and enhance physicians’ existing knowledge with proactive, preventive healthcare approaches.
This necessitates a network of institutions committed to such education. Finally, the economic benefits of longevity care must be demonstrated. By preventing diseases and promoting sustained, cost-effective care, longevity can reduce expenses for insurance providers, lessen state burdens for healthcare costs, and sustain a healthier, more economically active population. This approach benefits public healthcare and creates new financial opportunities in the private sector.
The reality of longevity adoption
In essence, longevity must shed its image as an unattainable sci-fi luxury and demonstrate its practicality within existing healthcare systems. It should complement, not disrupt, these systems, easing economic and health burdens. As a distinct discipline, it needs evident, standardised expertise, protocols, and frameworks. This demystification will facilitate its broader adoption and integration.
It is like astrophysicists constantly debunking myths about black holes and outer space and making complicated science digestible for the public. It is the job of current longevity advocates (eg., our job, including physicians, VCs, academia, non-profits, and others) to work on wrapping longevity into something integrable, understandable, and ready-to-use in our healthcare systems.