New $100 million longevity fund puts the spotlight on software

LifeX Ventures co-founder on the relevance of software at every layer of longevity – from discovery to diagnostics.

A new longevity focused venture capital fund is preparing to announce its first investments, as it seeks to accelerate commercialisation in the field. Joining the likes of Maximon, Apollo and Korify, New York’s Life Extension Ventures (LifeX) has put together a $100 million fund specifically for companies developing solutions to extend the longevity of both humans and our planet. In a slight twist, the fund is predominantly looking to invest in companies that are leveraging software and data at the heart of their efforts to hasten the adoption of scientific breakthroughs in longevity.

Longevity.Technology: The longevity field is alive with innovation, and developments in AI and Big Data are just some of the software-led technologies driving progress throughout the sector. Co-founded by scientists-turned-entrepreneurs, Amol Sarva and Inaki Berenguer, LifeX Ventures’ investment philosophy draws on their combined experiences building software-led companies across a wide range of sectors. We caught up with Sarva to learn more.

The longevity field is alive with innovation, and developments in AI and Big Data are just some of the software-led technologies driving progress throughout the sector
Amol Sarva – LifeX Ventures

Between them Sarva, a cognitive scientist by training, and Berenguer have led and/or founded several startups, such as CoverWallet, Virgin Mobile USA and Halo Neuroscience. The two have also invested personally in more than 150 startups before their interest turned more recently to longevity.

Sarva believes that the issues LifeX is looking to address “couldn’t be more urgent.”

“For the last 20 years, the tech community has been working on a lot of big and transformative projects, but I think there’s now a level of fatigue with the impact that some of these technologies have had,” he says. “Meanwhile, the problems associated with human health and the urgency of threats to the planet have really elevated and so this is a moment of clarity – if we have the resources and the experience to build companies and deploy technology in these fields, then I think the call to action is clear.”

Software increasingly relevant in longevity

Software’s role in addressing the challenges faced by humanity has, says Sarva, become increasingly relevant in recent years.

“A lot of physical hardware has been deployed, a lot of physical networking is out there, a lot of the fundamental biology and wet science has happened on how we understand DNA and synthesise it and target it, for example,” he says. “All of a sudden, a lot of that work is happening in software, where we’re creating models, virtualizing targets, simulating experiments and really shortening the pathway to real solutions.”

Faced with an urgent problem that can be addressed using software, Sarva and Berenguer resolved to bring their experience from world of building software-driven companies to the world of longevity. But its investment philosophy doesn’t mean LifeX is only looking for pure-play software companies – it’s more about how software is leveraged.

“We’re on the hunt for companies where what makes them different is their use of computational resources, of data, of networks and sharing, of machine learning and models,” says Sarva.

Accelerating outcomes, innovation, and adoption

When it comes to addressing specific challenges in longevity, Sarva highlights four key areas:

  • Workflow: using software to make things that used to take a long time happen faster.
  • Data: ways of collecting data and analysing huge flows of data to produce insights.
  • Models: building on data to create AI systems that can make judgements and decisions.
  • Sharing: how to disseminate data and learnings across different parties and groups.

“Those are different things that happen all the time in other areas of tech and are now completely normal at every layer of longevity,” he says. “There are so many different layers where it’s working – things like drug discovery, AI-assisted diagnostics, synthesis and models for different ways of testing and creating treatments.

“They might put those techniques to work to synthesise a protein or to accelerate a test of a certain kind of gene therapy or improve the quality of a diagnostic – things that will actually change outcomes for people in real life. They may be producing molecules and compounds, but what makes them different is their use of computing to accelerate those outcomes, accelerate the innovation, or accelerate the adoption.”

Accelerating adoption is a reference to the power of software to help bring new technologies and concepts to consumers on a large scale.

“For a wide and diverse audience, the internet has given us the ability to understand how to help them discover, acquire and pay for new technology, in new and different ways,” says Sarva. “And I think these are things that are going to be increasingly relevant in health and longevity.”

A hands-on approach to investing

While putting together the new fund over the past couple of years, Sarva feels the intersection of technology and fundamental science has proven to be a happy hunting ground for potential investments.

“We have a wide taste for different types of company, and we’re already starting to find some,” he says. “We’ll be announcing some of the first deals in the coming months.”

While remaining tight-lipped about the specifics of those first deals, Sarva indicates that LifeX will typically be looking to invest at the earlier stages.

“At $100 million, we’re a relatively small fund, so we’ll be involved in the first one or two financings – we won’t be in the in the late stages leading huge momentum rounds for companies that are already worth hundreds of millions or billions,” he says. “We’d like to be shoulder-to-shoulder with entrepreneurs and scientists who are either emerging from the lab or just getting their business going and figuring out how to make it work. Because that’s also what we’ve built our careers on.”

Having already built several companies and with both co-founders coming from a science background, Sarva believes LifeX has something unique to offer that other VC firms may not.

“A lot of folks in the investment business haven’t spent any time in either science or company building,” he says. “I think our unique value-add is that we can really get hands-on with companies and so hopefully they will take advantage of that. I think we have some hard-won lessons that we’d like to share and help support other entrepreneurs.”

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