Life Extension Science – Live Forever and Don’t Pay Taxes

They say there are only two things in life you can’t avoid – taxes and death. For our U.S. readers, you can actually avoid taxes by staying out of the country for 335 days or more. It’s called a Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and it gives you about 100K in tax-free income every single year. You’re welcome. As for death, we can’t tell you how to avoid that yet but we’re going to let you know when that nut gets cracked because “life extension science” is the hip thing for billionaires to invest in at the moment. 

In an article last year, we touched on the topic of aging which is an easier theme to discuss than death, but we didn’t quite get into the bigger picture of extending life. There is actually a field on extending life called “life extension science” in which anti-aging is one of just many broad themes. Life extension science comes in many names such as anti-aging medicine, experimental gerontology, biomedical gerontology, and indefinite life extension. Here’s the textbook definition:

Life extension science is the study of reversing or slowing down the processes of aging to extend the average or maximum lifespan.

According to Zion Market Research, the global demand for the anti-aging market was valued at $140.3 billion in 2015, and is expected to reach $216.52 billion by 2021. Medical experts, however, declared that the use of these products has not proven to have any effect on the aging process, a reason medical practitioners do not want to equate life extension science to the anti-aging industry identified closely with cosmetics and dermatology.

There seem to be two major schools of thoughts on dealing with prolonging life expectancy: life prior to death and life after clinical death. Life prior to death seem to have the most investment support, probably because it’s easier to invest in and write a check yourself while you’re still alive. There are many ways to approach life extension including the following:

  • Curing age-related diseases
  • Curing cancer
  • Using nanotechnology
  • Applying cyborg technology
  • Cloning
  • Genetic Modification
  • Applying the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS)

Curing age-related diseases or attacking the root cause of aging seem to hold the most promise because of the recent advances in genetics. Curing cancer is still in the “detection and diagnostic era” with a real “cure” still years to go. There will likely never be a single “cure for cancer”, but many different advancements such as earlier detection which reduces the mortality rate by up to 90% for some cancers. In the future, your smart toilet will read your urine in the morning and detect the cancer while your smart smoothie maker will automatically mix in a proper prescription so that by the time you get to work fire up your virtual reality simulator, you’ll be cured.

Digging deeper into nanotechnology, cloning, genetic modification, and SENS, you will realize, it is all about attacking the challenge of aging at the molecular or cellular level. (The exception is cyborg technology where you replace partly or wholly the human body with robotic technology). We’re going to just dive right into 6 companies that are attacking the root cause of aging.

We last wrote about Human Longevity (HLI) in April of last year when they officially became a unicorn after taking in a $220 million Series B round bringing their total funding to $300 million. Last month they hired Cynthia Collins as their new Chief Executive Officer replacing Craig Venter, Ph.D., Co-founder and former CEO, who will remain at HLI as Executive Chairman and will continue to guide scientific vision and strategy. HLI unveiled their genome search engine last October 2016, in which they were exploring individual human genomes in great detail. At that time, they had already sequenced 10,545 human genomes and went on to state:

The 10,545 human genomes are part of the HLI’s database, which currently contains more than 30,000 high-quality genomic and phenotypic integrated health records. HLI’s goal is to have one million integrated health records in the database by 2020.

With $300 million, they’re well on their way to building “the world’s largest and most comprehensive database of whole genome, phenotype and clinical data“.

Just last month, Google Alphabet took in a whopping $800 million investment into their life sciences branch Verily which makes us feel better about the fact that we haven’t heard squat lately from Calico. We first discussed the California Life Company (Calico) back in 2014 and since then this stealth mode startup has murmured very little about what they are doing with the staggering $1.5 billion in funding they have on hand.  Since Larry Page of Google, its main advocate, is more driven by the technical challenge of solving the mysteries of ROI rather than aging, informing the public of Calico’s progress isn’t really on the top of his agenda. 

One interesting anti-aging life extension science company we covered before was Elysium Health. Unfortunately, the only news this startup is turning out lately is bad news. The only supplier of the two key ingredients (pterostilbene and nicotinamide riboside) in Elysium’s anti-aging pill, Basis, just filed a lawsuit against Elysium this January 2017, for failing to make payments and for breach of royalties and trademark agreements. Added to this is a growing public criticism of Elysium’s general marketing campaign which consumers believe is misleading. Apparently, Basis which seem to be the only unique value proposition for Elysium is not the only company marketing pills containing the key ingredients pterostilbene and Nicotinamide Riboside (NR). ChromaDex, Elysium’s only supplier of these ingredients, is also a supplier (probably the only supplier) of these same ingredients to dozens of other anti-aging brands under the trademark NIAGEN. Since they have “30 of the world’s top scientists” on staff they should be able to think of a way to clean this mess up.

Unity Biotechnology, Inc., a startup incorporated in 2009, is in the business of preventing, reversing, and halting the various diseases attributed to aging by working on senescent cells. Here’s how they describe it:

Cellular senescence is a biological “emergency brake” cells use to stop dividing.  It’s an important anti-tumor mechanism, because it prevents cells from multiplying out of control. But after this “brake” has been pulled, senescent cells remain in the body, accumulating with age. And unlike normal cells, these cells secrete inflammatory molecules that harm neighboring cells and tissues

And here’s their pipeline:

The Company completed a Series B funding of $116 million in October 2016 so they have plenty of funds to execute. Not surprisingly, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal is an investor alongside some big names like Fidelity, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Paul Allen of Microsoft. 

Speaking of Peter Thiel, we all know what he’s been up to and it makes some people question just how grounded the man really is. He’s all over the news because of something that’s downright uncomfortable for us to think about. That’s right, Peter Thiel is said to be thinking about getting blood transfusions from young men to help stop the effects of aging. It’s a life extension science called “parabiosis” which is currently being investigated by at least two startups.

Mr. Thiel presently sits on the board of a startup called Alkahest which is studying the effects of parabiosis. $4.5 billion Spanish plasma company Grifols (NASDAQ:GRFS) owns 45% of the Company so there’s a way for retail investors to get a bit of exposure. They’re operating in stealth mode so not a lot of information available except for recent news that they appointed a Chief Medical Officer.

Alkahest isn’t the only startup exploring parabiosis. According to an article by Vice Magazine, a Silicon Valley company called Ambrosia is working on human clinical trials. They charge $8,000 for the privilege of participating in the study and apparently at least 600 people signed up. Sounds like those young bloods have something to offer us after all.

So there we’ve given you 6 solid companies looking to extend your life span. Maybe you should slap some dollars in a robo-advisor like Betterment just in case you live to be 130 because soon that’s going to happen. Of course this opens up a whole can of worms about sustainability of our planet. For  those of you who are going to be nice and just die so the rest of us can live longer with more resources, we will still hook you up.

There are those who believe the possibility of life after you are clinically dead. These are advocates who put up companies that build facilities for cryonics and for uploading your “mind” into some machine. Mind uploading is an exciting space to explore because of the possible merging of current technologies such as brain activity mapping, AI, BCI, and machine learning. Still, there are companies catering to those who simply believe in being remembered and having a purpose even after death such as Bios for its environmentally friendly burial urns and Capsula Mundi for its burial pods. That whole mind uploading thing sounds amazing so we may have to cover that in a future article. Stay tuned and enjoy all those tax-free $$$.

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