Healthier, longer lifespans will be a reality sooner than you think, Juvenescence promises as it closes $100M round
Earlier this year, an executive from Juvenescence-backed AgeX predicted the field of longevity will eventually “dwarf the dotcom boom.” Greg Bailey, the UK-based anti-aging biotech’s CEO, certainly hopes so.
On Monday, Juvenescence completed its $100 million Series B round of financing. The company is backed by British billionaire Jim Mellon — who wrote his 400-page guide to investing in the field of longevity shortly after launching the company in 2017. Bailey, who served as a board director for seven years at Medivation before Pfizer swallowed the biotech for $14 billion, is joined by Declan Doogan, an industry veteran with stints at Pfizer $PFE and Amarin $AMRN.
The business of anti-aging is gaining steam — Bank of America has forecast the market will balloon to $610 billion by 2025, from an estimated $110 billion currently — but investors are cautious, Bailey noted in an interview with Endpoints News.
“I think there’s a huge amount of skepticism. There’s an enormous number of charlatans…I understand why they would be thinking you know, is this real?” he said. “(W)alk into your local drugstore, you’re going to see about 50 products that claim to be anti-aging, and I can assure you that none of them are. So I think that there’s a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Institutions tend to move in lockstep when they’re investing, he added.
“VCs are astonishing, you know, if one of them buys the yellow halter top, all of them have to buy a yellow halter top,” he said, quoting tech VC Tim Draper.
Bailey suggested that investors are not quite as enthusiastic about placing bets on anti-aging, as they are in the tech world. “We’re dramatically being underserved…it’s not getting the exposure that tech gets, considering the size of the market,” he said. “There is a disconnect on what investors — sophisticated investors — institutions, how they’re viewing this, I don’t think they quite grasp how fast this is going to happen, and how big it’s going to be.”
Juvenescence has now raised $165 million in the last 18 months — in January it unveiled the first $46 million tranche of the Series B — and the money is being used to fund longevity projects with the lofty goal of extending human lifespans to 150 years.
It is a popular vision. Inspired by Mellon, venture capitalist Sergey Young — who is in charge of all things longevity at the non-profit XPRIZE and VC fund BOLD Capital Partners — unveiled a $100 million fund with the same goal in February. Google-owned stealthy biotech Calico is after the same prize — and has partnered with AbbVie $ABBV.
Juvenescence has been busy, collaborating with different groups and setting up JVs, such as Alex Zhavoronkov’s AI shop at Insilico Medicine — and has invested in firms including AgeX $AGE and LyGenesis. In February, Juvenescence debuted an anti-aging joint venture with the Buck Institute dedicated to inducing ketosis. In recent months, it spawned a new biotech called Souvien Therapeutics, which is developing medicines to address the epigenetic underpinnings of neurodegenerative diseases, and injected $6.5 million in equity financing into a preclinical metabolic disease biotech dubbed BYOMass.
This quarter, Juvenescence plans to close three more projects, Bailey said. The company is working on fortifying its machine learning capability to make sense of huge swathes of data that could help isolate pathways to develop disease-modifying therapeutics, as well as adding products to pad its portfolio. The idea is to pursue products that address inflammation and fibrosis to slow aging.
Meanwhile, the company will maintain a focus on regeneration. “I’m mindful that if you live to 150, you know, people don’t want to be all wrinkled, and in a wheelchair. So what we want to be able to do is regenerate tissues,” Bailey said.
The plan for an IPO remains in place. Yet Bailey acknowledged the company is wary of leaping onto a market prematurely, drawing a comparison with plant-based meat substitute maker Beyond Meat.
“Clearly, we need to have a receptive market and…we’ve seen that with Beyond Meat…so I think that investors are going to come to terms for this in the near future,” he said. “We’re talking to banks…I think that we’re well-poised, going into the next year to do that.”
In the coming five to seven years, Juvenescence has bold plans. It expects to have at least four anti-aging products on the market, Bailey said. “I’m hopeful that we have gone through proof-of-concept with three pharmaceutical agents and are licensing with big pharma, because we’re not hiring 10,000 sales reps. So we’ll let them do that.”
Science fiction is now science, he underscored. “I think the world is going to be shocked.”