Juvenescence and Life Biosciences are presently the two large business development companies in the growing longevity industry. They act much like venture funds, in that they create or take controlling positions in biotech startups, but are organized as companies in structure, with the ability to later go public. The resulting entity looks much like a Big Pharma company with many subsidiaries. It is quite possible to do this at a smaller scale and bootstrap towards much the same end goal – see Ichor Therapeutics and its portfolio companies, for example.
Greg Bailey is one of the cofounders of Juvenescence, alongside Jim Mellon and Declan Doogan. Today I’ll point out a recent two part interview, covering a mix of what the company is doing and the present state of investor interest in the longevity industry. Juvenescence is very visible as a company, since Jim Mellon does a great deal of work to spread his views on (a) the merits of working to extend the healthy human life span, and (b) the enormous returns on investment that will be generated by even early and limited success in treating aging as a medical condition. The longevity industry will become the largest and most beneficial industry in the world, given that every adult human being is a potential customer, and without health and life little else matters. The present medical industry, the business of treating ill people, will become a sidebar to the far more extensive provision of preventative treatments to control aging.
Perceptions among investors and the public at large as to how far along we are towards that goal will rise and fall with the year to year successes and failures of Juvenescence and similar companies. In a young industry, whether it is fair or not, the fortunes of all fellow travelers are affected by the performance of the household names.
Juvenescence seems to be moving from success to success; we started by asking Greg to bring us up-to-speed on news so far.
Well, the good news is that we closed morphoceuticals [spontaneous tissue regeneration therapy] this year; the bad news is that they need access to their labs. So COVID-19 has slowed the process on our development of spontaneous regeneration of a limb or an organ using bioelectrics – but we have an amazing team working on this and hopefully will be back in the lab soon. We recently closed a joint venture with a company called G3, and the new company is called Juvenomics. Basically they have 2500 people’s complete omics data – proteome, genome, etc., and they have another 4000 patients that they have partial omics data on. We have the use of all that data to try and generate new drugs and drug combinations for anti-aging and modifying aging. So it’s really exciting to get access to that data, and our extraordinary machine learning team, which has made great strides on the data science side, will be the group that will use this data to create drugs, drug combinations and repurpose drugs.
We are on track to launch our first product in the end of September, Metabolic Switch; it is a ketone ester that in mammals is geroprotective, neuroprotective, and cardioprotective. I couldn’t be more excited about that launch! And it should be relatively affordable, if you have a monthly subscription it’s quite reasonable. We signed our second product for Juvenescence Life, our non-RX division. This a product that increases autophagy. It will improve cognition, boost your immunity, help your bones, your cardiac health, your skin, hair … So I’m really excited about adding that one; hopefully we will be able to launch next year (and hopefully is the operative word there), which would be great news.
And how about research?
Our RX Division continues to move forward; it looks like we’re going to have two to four drugs in the clinic next year and we are starting human trials for obesity, cachexia, and immunometabolism, fibrosis, as well as combinations of those products – when products move into trials, that’s a time I find really exciting. In our regeneration division, LyGenesis starts its phase 1/2A clinic, to be able to regenerate a liver using lymph nodes, and that starts this year. We are on track to try and undertake thymus replacement using the lymph nodes, over the next few years. This is very exciting and would obviously be a great step forward for immuno-resilience, since it involutes at 3% a year every year after you turn 20. This is possibly why, unfortunately, 70 or 80-year-olds are dying from COVID-19.
When we spoke last we understood that you were fundraising – how’s that going?
We’re going out to raise $150m in our C round, which hopefully will be a prelude to an IPO, and, of course, we’re talking to banks, to make sure that we have a balanced syndicate for that initiative. So all in all, it’s been a little busy! There’s still this wild discrepancy between how much money is made available to social apps and media apps and one of the most powerful transformative scientific opportunities that humanity has ever had to modify aging. I think it’s like 10 times, maybe 20 times discrepancy in capital available from VCs, so, hopefully, the VCs and the sophisticated investors will understand that work to modify aging is happening now, not in 10 years’ time.
Are there other issues that you need to educate investors about, or are they becoming better informed as time goes on?
It’s going in the right direction; there’s already a difference response from when I talked to people in March compared with now. Maybe I’m getting better at telling the story, or maybe the company is moving along, and obviously the fact that biotech is on fire is certainly very helpful. However, I think that what still needs an enormous amount of education about is the scale of things. Tackling aging is very different from manufacturing a drug for breast cancer, cardiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disease. The population for breast cancer in Europe is probably in the 400,000s, but 400 million Europeans are getting older – it’s just completely different metrics.
Most investors appear to prefer seed-to-early-stage investing; have you found this to be the case in your networks?
This is about talking to the banks again; this is not going to be biotech investors, because they’ll think it’s early stage and worth nothing. They don’t understand that the patient population is 7.8 billion people. So, it’s going to be thematic investors, ESG people [Environmental, Social & Governance], sustainable, environmental investors; it’s going to be funds who understand the diversity of having non-RX, RX, and machine learning. It’s a retail event, so crowd-funding has an opportunity to do well. Most people are petrified of biotech, but it’s no different from mining: put some money in, if you’re lucky you find gold; if you’re not lucky, you don’t. The share price either goes up if you found gold, or drops if you didn’t. If we have a clinical trial, and it’s run by smart, educated people, then it has a better-than-average chance of it being positive and, if it’s right, there’s a 10x return; historically, this is what we saw at Medivation and Biohaven, predecessor companies with which I’ve been involved.