Longevity investing has “come of age” says MMC founder

McKenny-McFarlane Capital is focused on bridging the communication gap between longevity investing and longevity companies.

An investment firm with its sights firmly locked on longevity investing, McKenny-McFarlane Capital (MMC) was founded in 2020 and has already made an impression with its “longevity investment as a service” model. The company counts longevity biopharma powerhouse Life Biosciences as a client, among others, and has already worked on several investment opportunities in the sector, representing close to $50 million worth of interest.

Longevity.Technology: As interest in our sector continues to grow, we are seeing the emergence of investment firms with an exclusive focus on longevity. MMC is an interesting new player in the space and the company has made significant progress in a short space of time. We caught up with the firm’s founding partner, Daragh Summerfield, to learn more about MMC’s approach.

Having worked in finance for more than 15 years, Summerfield and his partner at MMC, Fiona McFarlane, at the request of their network, developed an interest in technology investments that could help make the world a better place. They first started to become aware of the longevity opportunity about four years ago, popularised through the work of Dr David Sinclair, author of the book Lifespan: Why We Age — and Why We Don’t Have To and co-founder of Life Biosciences.

“When we started seeing the science that was coming out of the industry, we realised longevity had come of age and could become a mainstream asset class,” says Summerfield.

The MMC partners then started work on looking at the kinds of disruptive opportunities presented by longevity, which they knew that the investors in their network would be very interested in.

“We started realising that a confluence of scientific breakthroughs is now enabling these longevity treatments, many of which have only really been around for a few years,” says Summerfield. “From CRISPR, to genome sequencing, to complex peptide molecule manufacturing techniques and new nanoparticle delivery models. The resulting landscape is so compelling, it just completely consumed us.”

“Today, we are working with Life Biosciences and other companies as well – essentially delivering longevity investment as a service.”

MMC has an extensive network of high-net-worth individuals and family office firms interested in the disruptive opportunities presented by the longevity sector. The company’s approach is essentially as a broker between the scientists, who often don’t understand what investors are looking for, and the investors, who often don’t have the scientific expertise to be able to screen all the opportunities and filter out the best ones.

“The more you drill into the detail of longevity, the more you realise that there’s not going to be one silver bullet, there will be many …”

“So when filtering the opportunities, we pay attention to companies that have good synergies.”

MMC likes companies with a combination of a discovery platform, which provides a pipeline of new treatments or application areas, and a fast-track route to approval, such as targeting orphan disease states. In this space, the firm does not focus on companies at a specific stage, and Summerfield cites one client that is still in academia, while pointing out that Life Biosciences is at Series C level.

“Our added value is to communicate the huge benefits within this exciting and quick paced sector,” he adds.

There’s a lot of work involved in that, Summerfield says, because the way that scientists present their research is often not the story investors want to hear in order to make longevity investing decisions.

“There’s a big chasm that has to be crossed there, and you have to build the bridge from both sides,” he adds. “You have to educate the investors, and also work with the academics to get the story, structure and execution path right in order to lower the risks and make it a good investment.”

For start-ups raising money, MMC adds value by streamlining the fundraising process.

“What they like about us is that they can have one conversation with us and we understand it,” says Summerfield. “We then produce materials; it could be video interviews, sector analysis, investment briefs, investor Q&A documents, etc. We do the heavy lifting, and eventually, we come back with tangible interest. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that.”
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What excites Summerfield most about longevity investing is its focus on health, rather than disease.

“The breakthrough change is that we’re no longer treating diseases, we’re treating the causes of diseases,” he says. “The reason we love this sector so much is that the scientists are going upstream to understand the processes that are already part of healthy organisms, mechanisms that are naturally keeping us youthful in early years, processes that are repairing us all the time, things that are rejuvenating us all the time.”

But MMC is conscious that this also presents one of longevity’s biggest communication problems when it comes to investors.

“Longevity research offers an incredible array of new health possibilities,” says Summerfield. “Its scope has everyone excited, but in the same breath it confuses many about what the sector symbolises. We still meet investors who don’t quite understand it. Thankfully, the science in the sector and its growth will turn it into the longevity boom we know it will be.”