A common understanding is that as we get older, we are more likely to die. We accept this as a natural fact, but a growing number of people – and now also investors – ask the question: do we really have to?
Investors are showing an increasing interest in the longevity space and are gearing up to back companies that are in the pursuit of helping people to live longer, healthier lives either by slowing, stopping, or potentially reversing the aging process. Optimistic researchers claim that the first 150-year-old person is already alive today and the latest assessment of the global longevity industry anticipates continued growth in the market, reaching a market capitalization of USD 27tr in 2026, up from USD 17tr in 2019 according to Aging Analytics.
Companies have prominent backers and are well-funded including Calico, an Alphabet-backed anti-aging company with USD 2.5bn in total funding and Samumed, a company that uses stem cells to regenerate hair, skin, bones, and joints, has raised USD 650mn and is valued a USD 12bn. Jeff Bezos and Peter Thiel jumped on the longevity train as well with investments in Unity Biotechnology, a company developing a drug that targets senescent cells and went public last year at a valuation of USD 350mn.
With so much capital going into the space, how long will humans live in the future?
David Sinclair, the acclaimed director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging Research at Harvard Medical School envisions a future where people would “reset” their bodies every 10 years or so and could live until 150 years, 200 years, and beyond.
More importantly, the founder of 12 biotech companies recently published a study where he and his team successfully restored partial vision in middle-aged and ailing mice by reprogramming their gene expression. If the same experiment is successful in human trials, this would suggest a possible way to slow or reverse age-related decline by reprogramming certain cells to a younger state in which they are better able to repair or heal damaged tissue.
“Cells can clean themselves up, they can get rid of old proteins, they can rejuvenate if you turn on the youthful genes through this reset process.”, Sinclair marked after releasing the study.
With the latest CHF 22mn financing round, Swiss-based Rejuveron (of which we are investors) shares a similar goal and is fully committed to treating age as a disease that can be cured. Their leading experts aim to find cures for age-related diseases by establishing a fully integrated biotechnology platform to connect visionary people and extraordinary ideas.
Do we actually want to live that long (and how to keep a sound mind)?
Perhaps the most unpredictable consequence of uncoupling life span from our inherited biology is how it would alter our psychology. All of human culture evolved with the understanding that earthly life is finite and, in the grand scheme of things, relatively brief. If we are one day born knowing that we can reasonably expect to live 200 years or longer, will our minds easily accommodate this unparalleled scope of life? Or is our neural architecture, which evolved amid the perils of the Pleistocene, inherently unsuited for such vast horizons?
To live a long life is one thing, but to live also a healthy one is another. One in four people are afflicted by mental health illness at some point in their lives and the World Health Organization estimates that mental health disorders are costing the global economy around $1 trillion in lost productivity a year, with depression being the leading cause of ill health and disability. Living a healthy life certainly entails preserving a sound mind throughout your life span and COVID-19 has further highlighted the need for improved mental health solutions.
New studies and alternative treatments are required to address this growing need in preventing and healing mental health disorders and one company definitely stands out in finding innovative ways of doing so. Atai life sciences is pioneering the development of highly effective mental health treatments with the use of several innovative compounds, including psychedelics, that address the unmet needs of patients and aim for a paradigm shift in the mental health space. In June the company listed on NASDAQ raising over $225milion in fresh capital at a whopping $2.3billion valuation.
How can we increase the chances for longer life and a sound mind?
While we eagerly await the innovative life-improving solutions developed by impressive companies as mentioned above , we can look to exceptionally long-lived people and learn from their behavior.
Across the world there are a few populations particularly known for the health of their elderly population. The areas include the Barbagia region of Sardinia with the highest proportion of male centenarians, to Okinawa in Japan where females over 70 have the longest life expectancy in the world. Researchers of areas with the highest life expectancy or highest proportion of people who reached age 100 and above, have found 9 evidence-based common denominators shared among such places that are suggested to influence lifespan.
Apart from hoping to have inherited good genes to live longer, moving naturally, focusing on a mostly plant-based diet and drinking 1-2 glasses of wine per day, a sound mental health seems to contribute to a longer and happier life. People studied follow a purpose and mostly belong to a faith-based community, while also keeping family close and maintaining routines to shed stress.
At Q·Advisers , we are not only trying to follow their example but are also simultaneously scanning the market for phenomenal companies such as Rejuveron and atai. We back unique founders which share our vision in finding revolutionary ways of improving (or extending) the life of people around the world.
Let´s try to live a happier and longer life together!