Small rooms, big opportunities

Thoughts from the floor of the Investing in the Age of Longevity conference.

There’s something I love about being in a small conference room discussing technology and the investment environment – it tells me that the crowd hasn’t got it yet and that opportunity is in the air.

Not that the size of the room at the Science Gallery in London today for Master Investor’s Investing in the Age of Longevity conference was relevant. The over-subscribed event was a magnet for the long-established players in Longevity, both scientific and financial, but also a new crowd of institutions, family offices and venture funds. The interest was palpable and the Longevity market is clearly open for business. Next time around this conference will be much bigger.

Seasoned investor Jim Mellon, often described as Britain’s answer to Warren Buffett, needs no introduction to those in the Longevity field. It was interesting to learn that he considers Longevity to be one of his main meta themes for investing, alongside climate change, clean meat and alternative proteins.

Mellon commented on the appeal of Longevity investing, saying, “If we are going to live to 110-120 the best thing is to invest in the thing that’ll help you get there.”

Dr Aubrey de Grey, the Chief Science Officer of the SENS Foundation who has been pioneering Longevity for years, and ahead of most, said that Longevity is no longer a niche field and, while most infectious disease have been easily prevented, we have had a long period of failure in keeping people healthy in later life. Like a car that is well looked-after and survives well beyond its warranty, the concept of Longevity is no different from healthcare.

Commenting on health versus Longevity, de Grey said, “SENS has always been funded through philanthropy to bypass the tyranny of peer review. We don’t work on Longevity, whatever the media may like to tell you. However, we know that our work will increase longevity a lot, I mean really a lot, and yes, we think this is a good side-effect.”

Aubrey de Grey speaking at Longevity Investor event
Aubrey de Grey addresses attendees at the Investing in the Age of Longevity conference

Recent spin-offs from SENS include: LysoClear which reverses macular degeneration; Antoxerene which clears senescent cells; and Revel which breaks the cross links between age and hypertension. Dr de Grey added, “This is going to be the biggest industry ever with 7.5 billion customers.”

Project 21 is a SENS Research Foundation moonshot plan to enable human clinical trials of genuine rejuvenation biotechnologies by 2021, which is both exciting and ambitious.

Dr Nir Barzilai is a chaired Professor of Medicine and Genetics and Director of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University – the biggest center in the world to study aging. Barzilai is very close to closing the funding for his TAME trial which we covered previously and he’s on a mission to have aging classified by the FDA as a disease (as it already is by the World Health Organisation).

Barzilai said, “Aging is the major risk for heart disease, aging drives diseases. There’s only one thing that we can do and that is target aging which is really the risk for all major diseases.”

Dr Barzilai is a founder and board member of CohBar Inc., which is developing treatments for the underlying metabolic dysfunction driving the diseases of aging, including NASH, obesity, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

AgeX founder and CEO, Mike West, shared his deep knowledge in the biotech sector with the audience and took many back to the core principles of what causes aging ahead of demonstrating the current art-of-the-possible, commenting, “Aging is reprogrammable… I think that Washington doesn’t have a clue and I’m sure the public has no idea.”

NYSE-listed AgeX has an exciting new technology called Immortal Tissue Regeneration (ITR) which is slated to reverse developmental aging back to a regenerative state by reversing cell aging to restore cell lifespan. After discrete initial applications, such as induced regeneration of the heart, the technique will move toward profound applications in scarless tissue regeneration, aging and cancer. Exciting breakthroughs leading into multi-billion dollar applications…

Longevity Week London 2019 continues and we’ll be reporting from the various conferences during this week. Stay tuned.

Image credit: Carla Heyworth