“I have bad news for you. You’re at high risk for heart disease if you don’t take action. Your cholesterol levels are way too high and that makes you a candidate for bigger health issues down the road.”
If that wasn’t bad enough news, some five years ago, when Sergey Young, founder of the $100 million Longevity Vision Fund (LVF), heard the results of his blood test results, his doctor dropped another bomb.
“Waiting seven years to do a blood test is a bad idea,” the doctor began, as he pulled the pin from his medical news grenade.
“I will prescribe you drugs and statins (lipid-lowering medication for patients at a high risk of cardiovascular disease) and that should lower your risk of heart problems, but you will need to take them every day for the rest of your life.”
And so, the story begins for Sergey Young’s longevity venture, a fund that backs organizations working on technology to reverse the aging process and prolong healthy human life.
“I can beat it!”
“I was ready to take medications for one, two, perhaps three months, but not till death do us part,” Sergey told AMEinfo in a recent exclusive interview.
“One of my three degrees is in Chemical Engineering, so naturally I don’t like putting chemicals into my body,” he added, not short on humor.
His second degree is in Economics. Not surprisingly, Young found out that statins were the 2nd largest revenue stream for pharmaceutical companies.
“It’s a guaranteed source of revenue for Big Pharma because these medications are prescribed for indefinite time periods… for life,” says Young.
No wonder that the revenue of pharmaceutical companies is on the rise. In fact, according to a report from IQVIA Institute for Human Data Sciences, the global market reached $1.2 trillion in 2018, a $100 billion increase from the year prior.
Taking matters in his own hands, Young signed a medical release form rejecting his doctor’s advice and went on to treat himself naturally by making certain changes in his daily lifestyle.
Three months after the adoption of a rigorous exercise routine, a steady diet abundant in fiber, supplements, and fish over red meat, Young’s cholesterol levels dropped by 25%. His lifestyle changes were as effective as taking statins.
Young’s longevity mission started to take shape.
He first set a goal of helping one million people along his journey into longevity-related investments. In the short time since launching his fund, his plans have gotten bigger, and so has the number of lives he plans to change: one billion.
“People have started asking me for advice on practicing healthy lifestyles that contribute to extending their lifespans. It’s certainly been rewarding to see how addressing these issues can help change so many lives,” says Young.
“To aid in the prevention of heart disease and other life-threatening ailments, individuals need to be physically active, eat a healthy diet. A good night’s sleep and daily meditation is crucial, too, to keep your cortisol (stress hormone) levels down.”
“Early diagnostics are equally as important,” Young tells me, as if I were one of his “longevity patients.”
Anecdotal pause: I was indeed secretly dying for a healthy dose of longevity advice, and it pleased me that I didn’t have to ask for it. In fact, Sergey volunteers this info himself. Just before our online interview, as I was battling with a connectivity issue and a dead recorder battery, Sergey smiled and told me: “Relax, take a deep breath. We can do the interview at any time. No need for you to raise your stress levels at all.”
Sometimes, inspiration comes when we least expect it.
Young attended the AQAL Anti-Aging conference in Vatican City a year and a half ago, a three-day event with an all-star line-up of speakers that included world-renowned innovators and thought leaders like acclaimed motivational coach Tony Robbins, bestselling author Deepak Chopra, musician Peter Gabriel, who co-founded human rights-focused video platform WITNESS, and Peter Diamandis, an international pioneer in the field of innovation. Diamandis founded the XPRIZE Foundation and co-created Singularity University, where he also serves as Executive Chairman.
“I was wowed,’ says Young of the other attendees. Young met Diamandis at the conference, where they talked about the road ahead.
“Peter’s been at the forefront of longevity innovation. His support has been a huge driver of my longevity pursuits, and inspiration behind the creation of my own fund to spread more awareness,” says Young.
“I have been an investor for the last 20 years, and I know through experience that investing can drive change.”
This is how Longevity Vision Fund was officially born in February 2019.
“The next thing I know, I’ve raised $100 million, I am collaborating with Peter Diamandis’ BOLD Capital fund on deal origination in the field of longevity, and I am developing the Longevity XPRIZE, a global competition between teams from at least 50 countries, designed to find a cure for aging,” Young says.
“Teams will be developing their own technologies, preventions, supplements, lifestyle changes programs, all aiming to reverse the aging process.”
Young’s investor network runs deep. Prior to launching LVF, Young was the co-founder of Peak State Ventures, a fund that deploys $150 million on new technologies in real estate, digital healthcare and the Future of Work. Aside from that, Young also managed over $2 billion in assets at another private equity fund.
Soon after LVF’s launch, Young joined the Financial Advisory Board of the Parliamentary Group in the UK dedicated to shaping longevity strategies for Britain’s population of 66 million.
Young also manages pro bono projects, such as “[email protected]”, a corporate program designed for companies who want to invest in health and anti-aging practices for their employees. A large unnamed financial organization of 300,000 employees implemented the program last year, and Young says it’s already seeing evidence of progress through lower sick days numbers and a productivity boost.
Young says that the longevity space can be mapped into three horizons.
Horizon One: Digital Health and Preventive Medicine
“There are 44 indicators in blood tests that can tell you what your “true” biological age is. Your actual age might be older than your numeric age, but you can slow down the aging process with simple steps. Living to 100 – our first longevity horizon – certainly isn’t unheard of, because it’s fairly intuitive and isn’t reliant on revolutionary technologies. Go for annual check-ups, don’t smoke, meditate, manage your calorie intake, eat a plant-rich diet. These small changes to a daily regimen can fight off heart disease, and even cancer, while also keeping your mind sharp.”
Horizon Two: Evolving Technologies and AI Diagnostics
Young says that there are a number of technologies that can extend our lifespans by 20 to 30 years. These are already available or in development but won’t reach the mass market for anywhere from five to 15 years. They include:
“All of us, including our kids, can use genome therapy and editing to cure previously incurable fatal diseases, such as cancer.”
Stem Cell Treatments
“I am very optimistic about the enormous resources our own bodies have to regenerate from within.”
Horizon Three: Augmented Humans and The Internet of Body
In describing the third horizon, think replaceable body parts, avatars, and brain-computer integration.
Limbs can already be replaced with artificial versions, but in the future, we will be able to replace dysfunctional organs inside our bodies, too, and expand our lifespans simply by “printing” them, says Young.
“Bioprinting companies are already producing organs for academic institutions. They are not used in people… yet,” he clarifies.
“Looking to counter immune rejection of bioprinted organs, technology companies are growing biological material from live human cells – basically making a modified version of our own organs.
“Ethics are still a key consideration for horizon three. Technologies will have far broader, complicated implications for the world at large.”
Cloning is something Young is still a little sceptical about.
“We can integrate cloning technology into our bodies instead of using it independently, i.e. to clone people,” he opines.
Making Longevity Affordable
A large part of Young’s longevity mission is to make longevity affordable and accessible.
“It starts with early diagnostics, such as AI-based blood (liquid biopsy) tests for early detection and proactive treatment of cancer. Colorectal diagnostics for cancer are expensive in comparison. The treatment of cancer caught early costs 10-20 times less than treating late stage cancer,” he said.
Providing healthcare institutions with affordable machinery like ultrasound imaging and diagnostic devices is equally as important, says Young. Today, ultrasound devices most hospitals use cost around $150,000.
“We’re investing in portable ultrasound devices – so small you could carry them in a pocket, costing much less than ultrasound machines used in hospitals. These devices upload the scans to the cloud to be analysed by AI, with more accuracy than a human doctor lacking such technology. Imagine the difference that bringing portable, affordable and highly reliable diagnostics can make to people around the world.”
Finally – on to wearables!
Sergey recommends Fitbit, Apple or Samsung as affordable personalized healthcare devices.
“Imagine – an Apple Watch can now take your electrocardiogram (ECG). If the Apple Watch detects a sudden fall, it will even call an ambulance for you. Tech giants are becoming the biggest healthcare companies of the future,” Sergey declared.
Life expectancy at birth was almost double in 2011 what it was in 1841. But it could be much higher if it’s up to Young.
“My goal is for everyone to live to 100 years, and we will sort things out from there.”
Young isn’t promoting eternal life by any means.
“I am against immortality. Remove death – and we lose something important about being human. It is best to accomplish as much as possible while we are still alive,” he says.
“Growing Young” by Sergey Young
Using clever wordplay, Young’s upcoming book is titled “Growing Young.” It covers in-depth Hallmarks of Aging, as well as his Horizons of Longevity, and longevity at work, and in communities, including whole nations.
But despite touching on such complex topics, Young explains, “The book is a simple guide, straightforward, and affordable. We compare it to the materials in the “For Dummies” series.”
A Prize for Longevity
Young is funding the development of Longevity XPRIZE,a global competition designed to incentivize teams to compete in finding a cure for aging.
“As the Development Sponsor of Longevity XPRIZE, I am launching this initiative to define the biomarkers that will be used to track rejuvenation and age reversal together with some of the brightest minds in longevity.”
Young names a few of these individuals: Aubrey De Gray, the “father of gerontology”; Terry Grossman, one of America’s leading authorities in anti-aging medicine; Steve Horvath, inventor of epigenetic clocks; and Kris Verburgh, Free University of Brussels Professor and Venture Partner at LVF.
Life-Extending Investment of Longevity Vision Fund
Sergey closes the interview by giving an overview of the impressive portfolio LVF has built in just over a year, sharing the details on some of the fund’s investments:
Freenome is an AI-based blood (liquid biopsy) testing for early detection and proactive intervention of cancer. LVF participated in Freenome’s latest fundraising round led by Polaris Partners. Other notable VC funds, such as Google Ventures, participated.
Juvenescence is a drug development company that aims to address a range of aging related diseases through portfolio expansion, developing rigorously tested and scientifically validated therapies to slow, halt and reverse aging.
Insilico Medicine is a next-generation AI drug discovery and development company. The company’s core competence is the identification and validation of novel disease targets. Insilico’s latest key achievement is the demonstration of Insilico’s capability to design, synthesize and validate a novel drug-like molecules in just 46 days.
Follow Sergey Young on his Longevity Mission!