By 2050 the average life expectancy could be 120 years, and just 150 years ago the average lifespan was 40 years. Let that sink in. Crazy. This fundamental shift is going to have a monumental impact on everything from consumer behavior, to work arrangements, retirement, you name it; not to mention on the myriad opportunities emerging to facilitate and extend the aging process.
Already early-moving investors are beginning to take notice:
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has invested over $730M into Calico, a company with the sole purpose of identifying ways to extend the human lifespan.
Jim Mellon, billionaire multi-sector investor, is a huge proponent of the space and has indicated that “the fact that the science of longevity is quickly catching-up with the aspiration of a long life, could lead to the biggest stock market mania of all time…[but] we are very early in this land grab (referring to biotechnology funds)”
In 2019 there were ~10 funds focused on investing in longevity, there are currently ~50 – 70, and we expect that number to balloon in the next decade.
But what exactly does investing in longevity look like? Like most things in life, it depends – and will continue to evolve. At the moment longevity and ‘agetech’ investments can be thought of along several lines:
BioTech / Gene Therapies – new treatments capable of both slowing the natural aging process, but also preventing premature deaths caused by diseases commonly associated with aging. Luigi Ferrucci of the National Institute on Aging notes that “the unglamorous truth is that treating aging is really about preventing the diseases that are caused by aging”. For instance, by the age of 70, the chance of developing an age-related disease is 50x higher than it is at 30 years old, making age the largest risk factor in ailments typically associated with a shorter life span.
Aging Support – everything from companion care companies to transportation and mobility – could all be categorized within the umbrella of ‘agetech’.
Diet & Wellness – one of the largest drivers of health and wellness is one’s diet, and more and more research is emerging to identify the ideal diets for optimizing wellness and lifespan.
These advances in longevity sciences and agetech are primarily being driven by the recent advancements in artificial intelligence and big data capabilities, both of which when combined, facilitate the ability to identify and develop novel drug compounds. Remember, less than a decade ago today’s understanding of artificial intelligence didn’t exist, and neither did a treatment for hepatitis C – now thankfully millions of people will be cured from hepatitis C, allowing them to live much longer, healthier lives. This is just one example of many, but the key take away here is that as technological capabilities have advanced, so too has disease detection and treatment. As the rate of mortality via disease decreases, lifespans are extended beyond what was previously considered ‘normal’ at a population level.
Interestingly, some researchers have taken it upon themselves to project how long the human body can survive, assuming that things such as cancer, heart disease, or tragic accidents don’t cut our lifespan short – and the number they’ve identified ranges somewhere between 120 years at the low end and 150 years at the high end.
The obvious implications here are many – from how we manage wealth and investments, to think about our careers, family planning, consumption patterns, etc. would all shift dramatically if we expected to live a minimum of 120 years, rather than 75 – 80 years.
Apart from the investment opportunities in longevity sciences and agetech, how would you live differently today if you knew you had a probability of living to 120 years? Give it some thought. There’s a statistical likelihood that one of us reading this will be among the first group of humans reaching that new 120-year standard life expectancy.
Additional Interesting Articles & Resources
World Economic Forum – How New Technologies Will Benefit Ageing and Longevity
Scientific American – Humans Could Live up to 150 Years, New Research Suggests
Milken Institute – Longevity and the Future of Health
Stay inquisitive. Stay smart.