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GLOBALOUTLOOK COVERSTORY


Fromthe US and Europe to east Asia, global investments have increased substantially in start-up clusters forming around research founda- tions, along with capital coming fromholding companies and ven- ture capital funds. As a testament to the newness of


the sector, however, there are still challenges of all kinds and invest- ment risk remains high. It is unclear howthe paradigm of age- related disease can be transposed onto the current regulatory land- scape and indeed just exactly which one of the many strands of research into longevity science will stick and gain traction.


Thought leader: Aubrey de Grey is proponent of a “post-ageing world”


enabling the eventual end-user to live an optimal life. The pandemic has throwna spot-


light on the tremendous capabilities of biotech research combining biol- ogy with computing technology and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as the severe consequences of having an older immune system, in turn bolstering the case for the longevity industry. As wemove into 2021, with vaccines and variants entering into a new race of their own, interest in disease prevention, living longer and extending one’s healthy years will only increase. A recent McKinsey report pub-


lished in January states the surge in data and analytics usage suggests that the biopharma industry has moved further digitally in the past 10months than in the previous 10 years. According to figures compiled by the Aging Analytics Agency, Covid-19 has facilitated the develop- ment of not only the biotech capital markets, but the longevity sector in particular, resulting in more than 30% of growth of public companies compared to the previous year. Pre-pandemic, the theme of lon-


gevity was already getting picked up by investors. In 2019, the Bank of America issued a report stating that the technology is about to bring “unprecedented increases in quality and length of human lifespans”, pre- dicting that the market would grow six-fold to roughly $600bn by 2025. Oncemore readily associated


with science fiction, this multifari- ous sub-sector of life sciences is now “exploding”, many insiders say.


20


Moonshotmedicine RemyGross, vice president of busi- ness development at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, one of the world’s foremost research cen- tres on ageing and age-related dis- eases, says that the goal to reach 120 years of age is logical.Mammals typi- cally live roughly six times the length of birth tomaturity, he says; if you argue that humansmature at 20, that puts us on track for a 120- year lifespan. Established in 1999, the institute


comprises researchers-turned-com- panies that look at the underlying fundamental mechanisms of ageing or biochemical pathways that accel- erate dysfunction, whether that be cancer, heart disease, metabolismor cellular senescence. “In the past five years, in par-


ticular, there has been a sea change,” Mr Gross says, attributing it to the rise of Buck spin-out Unity Biotechnology, a company focused on cellular senescence, and Google’s moonshot secretive ageing company Calico. “A lot of people looked at Calico


and said ‘If these guys are buying into it, there’s got to be something here’,” he remarks, adding that in a short space of time, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs started to see potential for a tractable businessmodel. Fast forward to today’s pandemic,


whose impact on the scientific com- munity and the public perception of science has “emboldened” innovators and investors alike, he continues. “We should be able to get bigger answers out of better questions.”


Placeyour bets Much like the rest of the biotech sec- tor, longevity has its roots firmly in


www.fDiIntelligence.com February/March 2021


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