Ahead of the Global Healthspan Summit, Hevolution CEO Mehmood Khan updates on the Foundation’s progress and explains why nothing happens without talent.
Next week, 100 international speakers and 1000 delegates will convene Riyadh at Hevolution‘s inaugural Global Healthspan Summit. As well as unveiling significant investments in the longevity sector, the Summit aims to catalyze global collaboration around extending healthspan, accelerate scientific progress for a rapidly aging world.
Longevity.Technology: Hevolution Foundation, which is delivering the summit, boasts an annual budget of up to $1 billion. The Foundation invests in grants for aging research and pioneers impact investments in early-stage biotech, driving acceleration and progress in the field. The Foundation is hoping the summit will “serve as a seismic shift in how the world perceives and acts, catalyzing the discussion from lifespan to healthspan.” To find out more, we sat down with Hevolution’s CEO, Dr Mehmood Khan.
Mehmood Khan on…
Healthspan as an open book
Whenever you convene the best minds of any field, and in this case, related to healthy lifespan, you’re going to generate not only discussion, but you’re looking for new ideas. The convergence of different disciplines allows you at that juncture to think about what are the innovations. In fact, if you look over scientific discoveries, most of them have happened when different disciplines have come together.
We’re going to move this field forward into the marketplace, into the end consumers’ hands. That needs to have not only scientists, capital investors, large industry, small industry, but also policymakers, regulators, and bioethicists. This is what will happen at the Summit; it is unique – bringing together as one meeting, people from all of these disciplines, to talk about healthy lifespan, that’s not happened before.
We’ll also be sharing these ideas in a very public forum so that the discussion isn’t just happening in a closed room. The idea is to engage and involve the media, because it’s telling the story so that people understand – because at the end of the day, we’ve got to bring the public along.
Democratization, not sensationalism
We are facing some headwinds, some of which are general, but the general public has lost some of the trust in science. Following COVID, other recent discussions and, unfortunately, polarization in the political debate, we have to win the trust in science back. Innovation doesn’t happen without that.
Sensationalism often leads to extreme statements – billionaires living forever, and so on. We are absolutely nothing to do with that; our vision statement is clear: expand healthy lifespan for the benefit of all.
Benefit of all, for us, means democratizing everything we invest in, so it touches as many lives across the world, no matter where you are. That’s why this is important for every person on the planet, not just a few. The science is credible – this is not just hocus pocus, pixie dust type of stuff. This is here now, the science is real, it’s happening now; what’s been missing, somewhat, is the catalyzing of it, with also private capital, getting enough investment in it to bring it to market. The media needs to play its part, and it’s time to put the pieces together and change all that.
We want to catalyze the world’s talent to want to get behind taking the science from academic institutions and progressing it towards market. And I think it’s important to remember nothing will happen without talent.
Now, the field has been relatively small in terms of the number of scientists working in this field. We want to attract more scientists, younger scientists and scientists from adjacent fields who can understand the challenge and the opportunity and say: “I absolutely want to commit a part of my career to progressing this field.” We want to track that talent and showcase it, and at the summit, we’ll be making some announcements that will get people to pay attention and say: “Wow, I want to be part of it!”
Hevolution on track
Everything we set out to do was to catalyze this field; our goal from the first hour was to build up to deploying $1 billion annually, but this is dependent on the organization’s bandwidth and capacity of my organization. When I took over as CEO, there was myself and two people – and you can’t deploy a billion dollars responsibly managing with one CEO and two members of the team!
But, the team now has grown to be almost 70 people, and we’re on track by end of 2024 to be almost 200 people. So now we have the manpower and most importantly, the senior executives in place who have the experience to do this, whether it’s head of science, head of finance, head of investments, et cetera. The second part of this equation was the field itself is small, it’s nascent – it can’t absorb that much investment funding from the get-go. You have to build that capacity and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing, and now, almost entering into our third year, we’ve been almost doubling every year to build to that. We are well on track and I’m confident we’re going to get to that target number, and I’ve always anticipated it will take three to five years to build to that. We’re entering year three well on our way.