Startups are building everything from machine learning genomics platforms to implantable ocular lenses in the fight against aging.
By 2050, the US population aged 65 and older is projected to reach 83.7M, almost double its population in 2012. To combat the aging process and help people lead longer and healthier lives, pharmaceutical corporates and tech giants alike have begun investing in startups that are specifically aiming to tackle the root causes of aging or age-related diseases.
In 2013, Google officially launched Calico Life Sciences. Calico bills itself as a research and development company focused on interventions that extend life. And last year, Jeff Bezos’ Bezos Expeditions invested in UNITY Biotechnology which designs therapeutics to prevent, halt, or reverse diseases of aging.
According to the National Institute on Aging, aging reflects all of the changes that occur over the course of life. However, questions remains as to how exactly these changes occur. Popular theories revolve around the ideas of cellular senescence and telomere shortening. The prior refers to the damaging effects that occur after a cell stops replicating and becomes “senescent,” while the later refers to segments of DNA at the end of the molecule that shorten over time and have been correlated with life span.
Below, we identified 10 private anti-aging companies to watch based on recency of funding, quality of investors, and category fit. These startups are working on new approaches to genomics, cancer therapy, and sensory loss associated with getting older.
1. Human Longevity, Inc.
Human Longevity is a genome sequencing company applying machine learning to genomic data in order to both inform health decisions and help fight diseases associated with aging. The company’s core product is the HLIQ Whole Genome platform which sequences the entirety of the human genome to develop health insights, as opposed to selecting for specific genes or traits.
Select Investors: Illumina, Celgene, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, GE Ventures, Amino Capital
Total Disclosed Funding: $300M
2. Revision Optics
Revision Optics has developed a small transparent ocular inlay intended to ward off age-related vision loss. Age-related near vision loss is caused by a loss of eye elasticity. The inlay improves near and intermediate vision by reshaping the front part of the eye.
Select Investors: Canaan Partners, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, InterWest Partners, Domain Associates
Total Disclosed Funding: $172M
3. UNITY Biotechnology
UNITY Biotechnology develops medicines for age-related diseases. The company is initially focused on eliminating senescent (no longer replicating) cells in order to prevent the downstream inflammatory effects that occur when senescent cells remain in the body. UNITY is currently developing therapies in the areas of inflammatory joint disease, ophthalmology, atherosclerosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and chronic kidney disease.
Select Investors: Mayo Clinic Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, WuXi Venture Fund, Bezos Expeditions
Total Disclosed Funding: $116.3M
PowerVision is developing an intraocular lens implant for the correction of presbyopia, i.e. age-related vision loss. The product is intended to restore the vision of elderly individuals to that of their youth. The lens contains a small amount of fluid that moves in response to the muscles of the eye, mimicking the eye’s acommodative process.
Select Investors: Advanced Technology Ventures, Frazier Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Venrock, Medtronic
Total Disclosed Funding: $111.2M
5. Recursion Pharmaceuticals
Recursion Pharmaceuticals combines bioinformatics and AI to identify treatments for virtually any disease that can be modeled in a cell. Initially focused on rare genetic diseases, Recursion is now developing screens in other areas including aging, inflammation, infectious disease, and oncology.
Select Investors: Felicis Ventures, Lux Capital, Data Collective, AME Cloud Ventures, Obvious Ventures, Epic Ventures
Total Disclosed Funding: $58.6M
6. Frequency Therapeutics
Frequency Therapeutics, which came out of stealth mode earlier this year, is focused on reversing the degenerative damage that occurs over time and leads to hearing loss. Their technology uses a combination of small-molecule drugs to cause inner ear cells to multiply and create new sensory hair cells. As opposed to hearing aids or cochlear implants, the company’s therapy is intended to restore natural hearing function via an injection into the middle ear.
Select Investors: Morningside Ventures, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Cobro Ventures, Emigrant Capital
Total Disclosed Funding: $32M
7. Elysium Health
Elysium Health is a daily supplement company that has, according to the company, developed a formulation clinically proven to increase levels of a certain enzyme that declines with aging. The company’s core product, Basis, works by increasing levels of the coenzyme NAD+, which, as per the company, begins to decline in our 20s.
Select Investors: General Catalyst, Morningside Ventures, Sound Ventures
Total Disclosed Funding: $26.1M
8. Insilico Medicine
Insilico Medicine, based out of the Johns Hopkins Emerging Technology Center, provides services in the areas of custom drug discovery, tools for aging research, and advanced deep learning algorithms. The company provides services to academia and pharmaceutical corporates while also developing an internal research engine focused on aging biomarkers, therapeutics affecting the root cause of aging and age-related diseases, and cancer biomarkers.
Select Investors: Deep Knowledge Ventures, Jim Mellon
Total Disclosed Funding: $12M
Nuritas, based in Ireland, combines artificial intelligence and genomics to discover novel peptides with potential health benefits across aging, dermatology, and diabetes, among other areas. The company uses big data techniques to discover food-derived proteins that can be applied to new sectors in the life sciences. Earlier this year Nuritas secured a partnership with BASF Human Nutrition that will allow BASF to sell peptides discovered by Nuritas.
Select Investors: Bono, The Edge, Marc Benioff, New Protein Capital
Total Disclosed Funding: $8.8M
10. Calico Life Sciences
Calico Life Sciences, co-founded by Google and former Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson in 2013, is a research and development company working on interventions to help people lead longer and healthier lives. Calico has partnered with The Jackson Laboratory to identify genes associated with healthy aging and, most recently, with C4 Therapeutics to commercialize therapies that treat diseases of aging, including cancer.
Select Investors: Google, Arthur Levinson
Total Disclosed Funding: Undisclosed
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