Aging, Startups

Jumping on anti-aging bandwagon, Y Combinator joins hunt for the $100B pill

Anti-aging upstarts have been popping up across the biotech landscape, with a slate of biotechs racing towards a market opportunity worth untold billions to the winners — or so the treasure seekers tell us. And now, after making a name accelerating tech stars like Dropbox, Airbnb, and Stripe to the big-time, prominent early-stage Silicon Valley investor Y Combinator wants a piece of the anti-aging pot of gold.

Healthspan and age-related disease will be the first focus of YC Bio, a formal program to for Y Combinator to fund life science companies still in the lab phase. Now that the accelerator has funded some bio startups — Ginkgo and Perlara among them — it has learned enough to take on this new experiment, president Sam Altman wrote in a blog post.

Sam Altman

“[W]e think there’s an enormous opportunity to help people live healthier for longer, and that it could be one of the best ways to address our healthcare crisis,” wrote Altman.

Here’s how it works: YC Bio is offering longevity startups any amount between $500,000 and $1 million for 10% to 20% ownership, as well as free lab space and access to experts (That’s compared to $120,000 and 7% ownership in standard YC deals). It’s a special track, but these companies will go through the three-month cycle with all the other companies in their batch.

The applications are open now, but we will have to wait until June to see these new faces of anti-aging. And Altman seems confident about the uber-fantastic prospects that await the biotech winners.

“You could make a pill that added two years to a person’s life that would be a $100 billion company,” he said in an interview with MIT Tech Review.

Players long in the game, though, recall that the same kind of hype cycle drove GlaxoSmithKline to buy Sirtris for $720 million, only to shut it down 5 years later and absorb the remaining slow-moving programs in its R&D group. Google’s stealthy Calico and some more recent entrants like Juvenescence, though, have been keeping the flame burning.


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