The impact of funding on longevity research
Age-related changes and diseases have been linked to genetics, proteome, diet, and even gut bacteria. Longevity research focuses on understanding the biological processes that cause us to age, with the aim of delay or prevent age-related diseases.
Cutting-edge research and innovation can require large monetary investments to take projects from concept to practice. To learn more about how early-stage funding could improve longevity research, Technology networks spoke with Garri Zmudze, executive director of the Longevity Science Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to fund a longer, healthier human lifespan by supporting longevity research.
Katie Brighton (KB): Could you outline the goals of the Longevity Science Foundation?
Garri Zmudze (GZ): The mission of the Longevity Science Foundation (LSF) is to fund projects working towards a longer and healthier human lifespan. By funding early stage medical technology research and development, we can help extend the healthy human lifespan.
Unlike venture capital or traditional investments, no exchange of capital or intellectual property is required to receive funding. In other words, there are no investors putting pressure on researchers – just financial support that we have raised from global donors. Our goal is to distribute US$1 billion over the next 10 years in non-dilutive project financing. In March, we announced our first call for funds on projects related to aging clocks and are currently reviewing submitted proposals.
We are a recognized non-profit organization in the United States and Switzerland. All LST donors receive the right to vote for the foundation’s funding decisions. At certain levels of contribution, donors can unlock benefits such as access to longevity events, networking opportunities, NFT drops and more.
KB: What are the main roles of seed funding for companies getting into cutting-edge research?
GZ: True cutting-edge innovation at the laboratory or research stage often requires significant funding just to get started. Finding this funding is a major challenge for researchers at small institutions. Foundational grants like those from the LSF can provide much-needed support for the high initial costs associated with such research.
The longevity industry is still considered far-fetched by some parts of the scientific world. Although more established than longevity, investing in biotechnology is still labeled as “risky” by investors and venture capitalists. We fund projects and research that we believe will change the future of our lives, but which would traditionally be ignored by other funding groups.
A key ingredient in providing the longevity space with a qualitative boost is to fund early-stage research, which can support projects at the stage of being differentiable as a potential therapy or product and, therefore, be eligible for venture capital funding. By increasing the number of such cases, you ultimately stimulate the influx of venture capital into the industry, while multiplying the number of early-stage companies undergoing clinical validation.
We have seen a successful example of this with the company Insilico Medicine, which works to develop new drugs using artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The founding team of Insilico Medicine received pre-seed funding that enabled them to establish research trajectories and build the technology needed to succeed. Having recently achieved unicorn status (as a private startup valued at over US$1 billion), Insilico Medicine now has the very first drug developed by AI in human trials. It’s a terrific example of how early funding can help move ideas in the longevity space from concept to practice.
KB: In your opinion, what are the main obstacles to greater acceptance of the longevity research sector by researchers? Does the LSF have a plan to fight them?
GZ: We believe that the main barrier to mainstream acceptance is the lack of transparent, non-equity funding for early-stage longevity research, which is not yet eligible for venture capital funding, but needs funding. capital to define a distinctive therapy or product to work on. By funding these early-stage companies, we empower researchers and founders to bring their projects to a point where they can publish their results, launch trials, and bring treatments to the general population.
Other barriers also include general confusion about what longevity research means. Many popular media sources claim that certain foods, diets, or exercises will magically add years to life. While lifestyle changes can support healthy aging, longevity is nuanced and there is no silver bullet that will allow humanity as a whole to live longer. We try to make longevity research more accessible by posting content about what working with a longevity doctor looks like in practice and how the definition of longevity has broadened in recent years. .
KB: The foundation announced its first call for funds focused on the concept of aging clocks. Can you explain a bit more what is meant by aging clocks? What impact might research in this area have on the overall field of longevity research?
GZ: Aging clocks refer to tools that individuals and researchers can use to measure their biological age. This may include apps, software, and other devices designed specifically to track biological age based on biofeedback and other metrics.
Recent discoveries in aging biomarkers and aging clocks have greatly benefited the longevity industry, helping to accelerate the development of diagnostics, treatments and more. Aging clocks are a valuable tool for researchers because biomarkers can help determine an individual’s biological age based on cells, tissues, and other body systems. As the industry moves towards a more nuanced understanding of science around aging clocks, stakeholders will be able to unlock a more comprehensive and holistic assessment of a person’s health. Aging clocks also facilitate ways for researchers to measure the effectiveness of anti-aging treatments. They provide a simple comparison standard for measuring whether or not a treatment makes a difference.
KB: What other concepts or topics might LSF seek to fund in the future?
GZ: Our main areas of intervention are therapeutics, predictive diagnosis, personalized medicine and artificial intelligence. Our visionary board, which includes leading longevity researchers and physicians, has identified these areas as having the potential to transform longevity medicine in the near future.
We are also focused on research and projects that will make a difference in the years to come, with a goal of reaching practice within five years. We believe that many of the longevity projects currently entering clinical trials will be instrumental in moving the industry forward as they reach their next stage.
KB: What do you think the future of the longevity research industry looks like and where does LSF fit into all of this?
GZ: I am incredibly excited about the future of the longevity research industry. We’ve seen tremendous interest in the longevity space over the past year, which aligns with findings from more than two decades ago. The key turning point for the field of longevity was the discovery of aging as a biological process. Since then, researchers have conducted studies and published reports on what this means in practice.
Some of these discoveries are gaining momentum and reaching human testing stages, which is probably why more people have recently become interested in this field. Of course, with more researchers taking an interest in anti-aging, there is a greater likelihood of having treatments ready for human trials and market entry. The foundation will be instrumental in bringing these research findings out of the lab and into public use, helping society move closer to reliable anti-aging options.
While there may never be a definitive “cure” for aging as some people might wish, we believe that current discoveries have the potential to transform what aging looks like in our lifetime. The Longevity Science Foundation will provide the funding necessary to bring us closer to anti-aging treatments and a renewed look at the trajectory of our lifespan.
Garri Zmudze was talking to Katie Brighton, Science Writer for Technology Networks.