In a recent article we discussed Synthetic Genomics, an exciting company founded by genetic pioneer Craig Venter who created “synthetic life” and is currently attempting to patent it. Just this month, Mr. Venter announced the formation of his own company to tackle aging, Human Longevity, with the ambitious goal of “making 100 the new 60”.
About Human Longevity
Human Longevity was officially unveiled this month with the news that they raised $70 million from donors including Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN). The Company expects this round of funding to last 8 months. Human Longevity was founded by Craig Venter and two other individuals; Robert Harir, the founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG), a $56 billion biotech company and Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation and Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Singularity University. Both co-founders currently sit on the Board of Directors for Human Longevity. The Company wants to become the largest human genome sequencing center in the world, having recently bought twenty HiSeq X Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN) sequencing machines. According to a recent New York Times article, Human Longevity plans to sell data to pharmaceutical companies and eventually to seek royalties for drugs and diagnostic tests derived from its findings and is also considering offering stem cell therapy. Human Longevity will also be able to immediately leverage the resources of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), Mr. Venter’s nonprofit with more than 400 scientists and staff working on a variety of genomic research and policy fronts.
However there is some skepticism around Human Longevity’s loft aspirations. Famous Harvard geneticist George Church was quoted by USA Today as stating that:
“…other companies are doing pieces of what Venter promises — combining them all won’t be easy. Any one of these would entail vast resources (and luck) to stay competitive — and to do so in a multi-front battle would be even more remarkable,”
Mr Church is speaking from experience given he is the Chief Scientific Advisor and Co-founder of Knome, a startup looking to provide genome downstream interpretation services.
A Notable Competitor
Craig Venter is not the only person looking to tackle aging. Larry Page recently decided to enter this space. In September of last year, Google made the cover of Time Magazine with their newly formed company, Calico, which is looking to study the genetic causes of aging and address related diseases.
Calico’s ambitions are even more lofty. According to TechCrunch, a source familiar with the project stated that the goal is to increase the life expectancy of people born 20 years ago by as much as 100 years. Little is known about this much discussed start-up except for the world class management team. Previously CEO of Genetech, Calico’s CEO Arthur Levinson is currently Chairman of the Board for both Genentech and Apple Inc as well as a member of the Roche board. Calico’s President of R&D Hal Barron, left his position at Roche as of Head of Global Product Development and Chief Medical Officer to join Calico. Famous Princeton genomics professor David Botstein is leaving Princeton to become Calico’s Chief Scientific Officer. Calico’s initial investors are Google and Mr. Levinson.
While Calico and Human Longevity may be a long way from having a commercial product or service offering, both these companies have world class business and scientific personnel at the helm and no doubt show a great deal of potential for the future.
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