Maximon CSO talks clinics, diagnostics, and why longevity is about much more than drug development.
Last week’s Longevity Investors Conference in Gstaad brought together the great and good of the longevity field, once again demonstrating the surging global interest in healthy aging and rejuvenation technologies. Maximon, the Swiss company behind the event, is itself a fascinating story, with its model for creating and building longevity companies from scratch.
Longevity.Technology: From companies developing longevity supplements and health analytics to skin aging therapies and longevity clinics, Maximon has already created an interesting stable of start-ups, with more yet to come. The company recently announced Dr Elisabeth Roider as its Chief Scientific and Medical Officer, as it builds out the senior team that oversees the companies in its portfolio. We caught up with Roider to learn more.
Harvard-trained Roider is a physician-scientist, who also works at the University Hospital of Basel in Switzerland and Harvard Medical School. She believes that working both in research and with patients provides a useful perspective when it comes to building companies in the longevity space.
“Working in a life sciences innovation hub like Boston showed me that it was possible for scientists and medical doctors to actually work on bringing products and solutions to market,” says Roider. “This isn’t something that is clear to many academics, but it inspired me to get involved in the business side of science and ultimately led to my new role at Maximon.”
A broad approach to longevity
Maximon’s approach, says Roider, is to take quite a broad approach to longevity, targeting some initial low-hanging fruit, with the intention of adding some higher risk “moonshot” projects at a later date.
“Some things about longevity are pretty clear, the importance of sleep and food, for example, so we’re building a nutrition supplement company,” she says. “On the diagnostic side, one of our companies is collecting holistic biodata and combining that with artificial intelligence and machine learning processes to develop new algorithms to provide health and longevity insights to consumers.
“We are also looking at the societal side of longevity, which I think is often overlooked, and exploring things like the mental health benefits of co-living and co-housing. And then of course, we’re also exploring medical innovations like rejuvenating products, currently mainly in the field of skin aging.”
Another interesting company being built in Maximon’s portfolio is based on a clinic concept, which will see the rollout of walk-in longevity clinics in towns and cities across the world. Roider expects the first clinic to open next year in Zurich, where Maximon is headquartered.
“We want to bring the concept of longevity to life – to take it beyond science and drug development,” says Roider. “The clinics will be offering everything from diagnostics to cutting edge therapies to behavioural change coaching – how to modify your life to ensure you’re going in the right direction.”
Addressing the longevity gap
While acknowledging that the principles of longevity, such as maintaining health and extending healthspan, are “amazing”, Roider is wary of the gap that exists between basic research and actual healthcare.
“There’s serious discrepancy between innovations made in the scientific community and interventions being used by physicians working in the field,” she says. “Of course, there’s always a lag between science and real therapies, but so far there has been limited activity in the longevity field to close this gap.”
Maximon’s goal, says Roider, is to work on closing that gap as quickly as possible.
“Depending on who you speak to – scientist, physician or entrepreneur – they all have different viewpoints on how this may be done,” she says. “But what they all have in common, I think, is a shared goal of really bringing this field forward. And for me, this field is all about identifying the right opportunities.”
While many assume that longevity opportunities are mostly focused on discovering new drugs and therapeutics to combat aging and its associated diseases, Roider points out that the field is much wider than that.
“There are also big opportunities in diagnostics – how to diagnose aging and age-related diseases, and how to really understand what’s happening,” she says. “But it’s also about prevention. In classical medicine, a large part of what we now call ‘longevity’ has been known as preventive medicine, which is usually not well-funded in healthcare because we’re focused on sick care.
“I’ve been trying for many years to get support for different prevention strategies, and they were always incredibly hard to fund. But, with populations aging so quickly, prevention and longevity interventions are now becoming essential, so now is the right time to pull the strings together on all these different areas of longevity.”
Combining creativity with scientific rigour
While Roider acknowledges that Maximon wants to be innovative, creative and drive the field forward, her role is to ensure that this is done as scientifically and as rigorously as possible.
“Maximon has already established different collaborations with academic labs worldwide,” she says. “We’re looking at the microbiome field and at mRNA or general RNA therapies for vaccines as well as treatments, as well as gene therapies, senolytics, and so on. There are many hot fields out there, so it’s more a question of which of these many exciting areas do you pick and what funds do you have available to really go for it. From our perspective, we’re initially looking for opportunities that can be converted into a product within about two to three years.”
This focus on delivering results in a short timeframe may sound ambitious, but Roider says it’s all about narrowing down on specific points as part of a bigger picture.
“Even something as complex as neurodegenerative disease can be looked at in a series of smaller steps, and then it’s suddenly pretty streamlined,” she says. “So you can be rigorous, but at the same time, you can be very specific.”
And yet, despite this approach of narrowing down on specific challenges, Maximon’s overall focus on longevity remains broad.
“We think the concept of translating innovation is reproducible,” says Roider. “And at the same time, we very much believe that longevity as a concept needs to be addressed in a very holistic way.”