Longevity is gaining momentum and it’s time for healthcare to catch up

LongeVC’s Sergey Jakimov discusses how longevity’s ideas are taking root in society – but there is still work to be done to bring healthcare up to speed.

Sergey Jakimov is a founding partner of LongeVC, a venture capital company that supports early-stage biotech and longevity-focused founders and startups. While he is obviously an entrepreneur, he always has an eye on the ethical implications of biotech and longevity-focused initiatives.

While he 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 1
by Sergey Jakimov

I wanted to start this piece on a positive note, which is that the overall understanding of what it takes to live a longer life of better quality is slowly making its way into the awareness of average members of our global society.

The portrait of that “average” person may differ, but for simplicity, we can generally describe them as someone with no professional experience or education in the healthcare industry; they consume mainstream media and generally know what is and is not good for them.

This is a generalistic and oversimplified view, but I think you’ll realize, as I did, that this basic understanding that most people have of their health is, surprisingly, the answer to a more complex set of issues in longevity.

How does this basic understanding of a good or bad lifestyle manifest in our life choices? Through straightforward, and at times unpleasant, inclinations and prolonged calculated patterns of behavior – systematically going for a walk instead of staying on the couch, choosing vegetables over fast food, etc. Some of these choices also became easier to make – different wearables and apps make lifestyle choices more manageable, motivating us to move fast, sleep, and care for ourselves, for example. In fact, some of us are much bigger longevity enthusiasts than we thought – we just call it by a different name. Wellness. Health. Good habits.

Regardless of the term, this is a good start for the broader adoption of the term longevity. This pattern of making a series of “healthy” lifestyle choices is vital. It’s a good start because it is a basic (read: easily understandable) longevity narrative. And it is happening “now” – indeed, it is already rooted in the lives of an increasing number of members of our society. It is, thus, an excellent and promising pattern for our overall adoption of longevity.

Longevity is non-existent in the mainstream healthcare system

However, looking further away from the world of trackers, counting steps, and consuming broccoli, it appears that longevity isn’t taking root yet in the healthcare system. Finding longevity-centred narratives, frameworks, methodologies, or approaches is hard. Most practicing physicians are unaware of the term, and general hospitals lack structured longevity programs.

Biotech downturn – deciphering the impact on the longevity ecosystem
Sergey Jakimov is a founding partner of LongeVC

We need to manage our expectations of the average healthcare system, and first, we must understand its purpose. Healthcare systems and, most importantly, their patient-facing care parts are heavily standardised, protocoled, high-throughput triaging machines geared towards one goal only: being able to efficiently process large populations with various conditions, efficiently filtering the patients, and assigning them, with little to no level of personalisation, to the most fitting treatment regimen. In all their pragmatic nature, one might even claim that they are not there to save every patient but rather to demonstrate a reasonable success rate in recovering a significant portion of them.

Frankly, this feature is one of the primary reasons why any increasingly personalised healthcare debate always fails within the framework of the traditional high-throughput healthcare system. There is insufficient time, resources, and willingness to treat everyone differently. It was also never a goal to begin with.

The way a traditional healthcare framework approaches a patient’s health condition is also fundamentally different from the longevity narrative. It is hugely reactive instead of proactive (e.g., focused on prevention). For the process-oriented and protocol-driven triage system to attend to the patient, one must be substantially ill or, at the very least, reasonably suspect that they are sick. Otherwise, why bother with a healthy individual?

It is true that state screening programs for breast, colon, ovarian, and other cancers partially disprove this claim; they also reduce the disease burden in certain illnesses that, if discovered late, will render a person obsolete and unrecoverable.

As a result, the picture seems grim. We are units in society, and unit economics is against us. We need efficient care, which means reducing personalisation and treating diseases rather than preventing them.

Time for change

While longevity gains momentum among individuals through healthier lifestyle choices and technological aids, its presence in the healthcare system remains minimal. The current healthcare paradigm, which is heavily focused on reactive treatment rather than proactive prevention, is misaligned with the principles of longevity. This disconnect presents a critical challenge: how do we bridge the gap between individual health initiatives and a healthcare system yet to embrace the longevity narrative fully?

We realise that transformative changes are needed to integrate longevity into healthcare frameworks. In Part 2, we will explore the barriers and potential strategies to overcome them, furthering our journey towards a healthcare system that fully embraces and integrates the principles of longevity.

Read the second part of this essay, How longevity will arrive for everyone, HERE