The idea of living forever, or at least a lot longer than our current lifespan, might not be too far away and the science behind it is receiving backing from some of the world’s biggest family offices.
A growing ecosystem of ventures centred on the idea of slowing and eventually ending ageing has emerged in the last few years. One of the most prominent of these groups is Unity Biotechnology, which is at the forefront of biogerontology - the science of ageing - research and the process of slowing the ageing process.
Unity says it wants to create medicines that could make the debilitating consequences of ageing as uncommon as polio. Since its launch in 2009, Unity has produced 91 therapeutic medicines for human clinical trials of which 13 have been approved by the US Food and Drugs Administration. So it’s efforts are already making a difference in the world of anti-ageing.
Based in San Francisco, Unity is also backed by some of the world’s biggest family offices, including Bezos Expeditions, which manages Amazon’s Jeff Bezos' personal venture investments, Vulcan Capital, part of Paul Allen’s family office, Vulcan Inc., and COM Investments, the family office of the telecoms tycoon, Craig McCaw.
And more investors are entering the science of anti-ageing. Just this week a venture called Juvenescence received seed backing to pursue its various biotech anti-ageing efforts. Juvenescence, which says it invests in human ageing and longevity, was launched by Jim Mellon, one of the UK’s best-known investors. The launch has coincided with the publication of a book by Mellon by the same name as the startup, which looks at investing at a time when we are living longer.
But the pioneer investor in the field of anti-ageing science is Peter Thiel, one of the tech sector’s best-known individuals and the founder of PayPal. Through his venture firm Founders Fund, Thiel and a group of other investors have been at the forefront of investing in anti-ageing science for more than a decade. Founders is one of the notable investors in Unity.
And Thiel for some time has backed the Methuselah Foundation, which is a non-profit group dedicated to extending life through engineering and regenerative medicine. The foundation was co-founded by Aubrey de Grey, who is perhaps one of the best-known scientists in the world of anti-ageing science. De Grey is also the founder and chief science officer of the SENS Foundation, another group dedicated to the science of anti-ageing.
So, in the not too distant future, family offices through their backing of these anti-ageing effort might just come up with the ultimate answer to succession at businesses like theirs - not having to worry about it at all because their principals - and their employees - will live forever.