In this weekly update, Longevity.Technology Editor-in-Chief Phil Newman keeps us up to date with all the latest developments in longevity.
It’s been another busy week for the Longevity market. A fast-growing space, there is progress in many different directions and here are some of the highlights that should be on investors’ radar.
Supplement your lifespan
Supplements are big news. Not only has the C19 pandemic caused a huge upswing in personal health responsibility and immunity bolstering, but refined delivery systems now ensure you get your supplements closer to where they’re going to work in your body.
Last week we interviewed Dr Christopher Shade, CEO and Founder of Quicksilver Therapeutics, whose natural medicine war chest contains compounds from turmeric, elderberries and hemp (GRAS [generally recognised as safe] ingredients). What really caught our eye, though, is Quicksilver’s delivery system, which is built around nanoliposomes, minute vesicles made from the same building blocks as cell membranes. The tiny transporters start absorbing in the mouth and the rapid intake means increased bioavailability.
Nanotechnology delivery systems for drugs and supplements are an interesting new area for investment activity.
Quicksilver is expanding its range of supplements as well as researching telomere lengtheners. If your DNA is a stick of dynamite, then the telomeres at the end of DNA strands are fuses, burning a countdown that gets shorter with every cell division. When the cell’s fuse runs out, it’s game over, and the cell either dies and is recycled, or it becomes permanently old and grumpy, emitting toxins and causing trouble – this is senescence, which I wrote about last week, an area of considerable investment interest in Longevity.
More and more people are investing in health wearables that provide personalised training plans, diagnostics as well as logging results with their therapist and clinicians.
Health monitoring company WHOOP announced last week that it has closed a $100 million Series E financing at a $1.2 billion valuation led by venture capital firm IVP and joined by a host of other investors. The company, which has raised more than $200 million to date, works with everyone from professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts to measure and improve personal health. With product and software development and global expansion as two of its goals, the company is in a strong position to cement its place in the marketplace and to stay in the public eye, especially as several of the world’s leading athletes are also investors in this round, including NBA player Kevin Durant, NFL players Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Mahomes and Eli Manning, and golfers Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas.
Apple doesn’t own the market yet – there’s plenty of room in the market for independent app developers and even device manufactures, but they’ll need plenty of capital to give them sufficient firepower to survive the inevitable market consolidation.
I’ve just purchased a Whoop myself – it’s very interesting to see how my body is reacting after exercise and (cough) alcohol intake!
This week we spoke to Ira Sobel, the founder of FinTech for Older Adults who described her view of the future of ageing: which is essentially more people needing to work in order to finance the growing number of retirees, the so-called dependency ratio. She points to the growing difference between the legal age of retirement and life expectancy, and that the proportion of healthy lifespan is also getting longer.
“We see that retirement is essentially redefined, because it’s becoming much more flexible,” she says. “Combined with increasing marginalization of public pensions, increased out-of-pocket medical expenses, and increased ageing-in-place.”
Targeting both FinTech start-ups and financial institutions with her message on financial innovation for the ageing population, she says: “Overlooking this segment is a big loss for them. There are a lot of ways to unlock the opportunity of older adults through digital financial solutions.”
And now for some science…
Blood is pretty easy to get hold of for tests, and conveniently the plasma part of blood is chock-full of proteins and biomarkers – the plasma proteome. Two papers recently published in Aging Cell demonstrated that biomarkers of ageing can be detected and measured, even in tiny amounts, meaning tracking what happens when we age and whether any therapies or drugs have an effect can be measured too.
Dr Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told us that biomarkers distinguish biological age from chronological age.
Products and services associated with tracking biomarkers are emerging every week in the Longevity market. I’m personally very interested in this area as I’m tracking my own biomarkers – I undertake regular blood tests to see what’s happening with my biomarkers.
“If you take a test when you are 50 years old, but biologically you are only 40, you may not need a colonoscopy,” he explained. “It is even more important because biomarkers change with gerotherapeutics, so we know a therapy works as soon as possible without spending lots of resources. Proteomes like those in these papers reflect tissue breakdown are likely to change with any therapy, so they are great biomarkers to understand.”