Talking venture capital and the Longevity investment landscape with Elysium Health CEO Eric Marcotulli.
While we believe it’s clear the investment opportunity in Longevity is vast, it’s undoubtedly a sector that is still defining itself. The market for rejuvenation therapies is estimated to be less than $1 billion, but the wider Longevity economy is slated by some to be a multi-trillion dollar sector. And, while this lack of clear definition can sometimes create challenges for companies seeking investment, it also presents venture capital firms with a significant early-mover advantage.
Last year, Juvenescence founder Jim Mellon told us that, while there are currently only about 10 investment funds focused on Longevity, “there’ll be 50-70 in the next few years and in 10 years’ time there’ll be thousands.” And we’ve already highlighted countries around the world, such as Switzerland and Singapore, for their work to target Longevity through a more consolidated approach between governments, institutions and investors.
Having now gone through several significant investment rounds, Eric Marcotulli, CEO of Elysium Health is ideally positioned to comment on whether investors are yet seeing Longevity as an investment category and we raised this with him during our recent interview. Considering the question, he recalls seeing Elizabeth Blackburn, a Nobel Prize winner for her work on telomeres, giving a talk on investment.
“… if she walked up and down Sand Hill Road saying that her work had discovered the cure for a very specific form of cancer, she would probably be able to get a blank check from anybody …”
“She said if she walked up and down Sand Hill Road saying that her work had discovered the cure for a very specific form of cancer, she would probably be able to get a blank check from anybody she sat with,” he recalls. “But if she walked in there and said her work could potentially impact on cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and so on, she’d be laughed out of the room. And I think that was a really great encapsulation of the State of the Union, not just on her research, but on aging itself.”
Marcotulli concurs that much of the investment community is perhaps “a little behind” when it comes to Longevity and anti-aging, although he points out that there are those who are ahead of the field, such as Robert Nelsen at Arch Venture Partners.
“Those types of people will have the ultimate advantage,” he says. “But, broadly speaking, the investor community thinks the way that consumers and patients think. At the end of the day they want to see the data so that, in less than 10 seconds, they can see what the benefit of the products your company are developing will be. But our investors, and Bob Nelson is one of our investors, have been fantastic about being forward thinking.”
Marcotulli can understand the investment community’s hesitance in a sector that does not yet have a lot of the proof points that they would want to see from a new category.
“We’ve made great progress in identifying and agreeing the key pillars of aging,” he says. “However, what we still haven’t shown conclusively, especially in humans, is are there discrete impacts, how interconnected they are, are certain ones more or greater contributors than others? And, more importantly, how do we measure the impact of changes to the different processes, what does it take to actually change those processes, and what does changing those processes mean?”
Marcotulli points out that Elysium is at the forefront of trying to change this; both with what it has published to date, and what it is planning to publish in due course; as its clinical trials continue to progress.
We know of venture capital funds that are raising, and we know of a number that are about to announce soon. Stay tuned.