By: Sergey Young
Do you ever feel like you don’t have enough time in the day? Well, good news—we’re about to have all the time we need. How, you ask? We’re about to live much, much longer due to the rapidly evolving innovations, knowledge, and medical breakthroughs. Below is the “3 Horizons” framework we use at Longevity Vision Fund to map the three stages of longevity innovation, each leading to progressively longer life spans.
The first horizon is built on technological advancements in digital health and preventive medicine, which can help us live to 100 years on average. The second horizon comprises artificial intelligence (AI) and precision therapies, potentially extending our life span to 150 years. And the third horizon is due to innovations and advancements in augmented humans and the Internet of Body (IoB), potentially resulting in average life spans of 200 years (or maybe more!).
Horizon 1 – today: digital health and preventive medicine
Currently, the average life span in America is around 80 years. But we can already live to 100. And in a sense, we already know what we need to do.
Get a health check-up every year. Don’t smoke. Eat well. Work out. Meditate. Eat vegetables. It sounds cliché, but there is research backing this up. A Harvard study found that not smoking, maintaining a healthy BMI, exercising 30 minutes a day, drinking moderately, and eating well can help you live longer by at least 12 years. But all of these good-for-us habits is hard to do on our own. This is where technology can help, especially in the fields of digital health and preventive medicine.
Corporates are embracing horizon 1 technologies to create healthier and more longevity-friendly environments. For example, Visa and SAP have introduced genetic testing to their employees as part of their preventive health strategy. Tech giants Apple and Facebook offer reimbursement of costs for oocyte cryopreservation (egg-freezing) for their female employees. Google even has a dedicated PiLab (People and Innovation Lab), which researches unique ways to improve the health and happiness of its employees. It’s no wonder that Google has been winning Fortune Magazine’s “Best Company to Work For” for six consecutive years!
A great example of how preventive medicine can save lives is Freenome—a Longevity Vision Fund portfolio company—which truly pushes the boundaries of early cancer diagnostics. Freenome is a health technology company developing accurate, accessible and non-invasive blood tests powered by an AI-based multiomics platform for proactive diagnosis of cancer at its most manageable stages. In a recent study, Freenome’s multiomics blood test demonstrated an impressive early stage sensitivity of 94% and specificity of 94% for colorectal cancer (CRC), which represents, to-date, the best prospective results for early detection of CRC of any test in this space including the current standard-of-care fecal test FIT.
Horizon 2 – tomorrow: artificial intelligence and precision therapies
The next horizon could extend our lifespan to 150 years. This horizon is built on advances in AI revolutionizing drug discovery and empowering doctors in diagnostics and treatment decisions, as well as precision therapies curing genetic and chronic diseases, and many other innovations that can be made available to us over the next 5-15 years. Preventing disease is a critical factor in living longer, but empowering doctors with AI to catch a disease in its early stages is the next best option. Technological breakthroughs are helping us make diagnostics earlier and more accurate than ever before.
Human doctors, without access to the latest available technology, only successfully diagnose lung cancer about half of the time. This will change with future advancement. Already, Amazon has been eyeing the diagnostics arena by dedicating the “Moonshots” team to consumer health diagnostics. Google has been applying deep learning techniques to improve the accuracy of medical imaging diagnoses. Using algorithms trained on data from nearly 300,000 patients, they were able to quite accurately predict cardiovascular risk factors based on retinal images.
Another example of how AI transforms healthcare is Insilico Medicine – also Longevity Vision Fund’s portfolio company. Insilico is a next-generation AI drug discovery company capable of designing and validating new drug candidates in under two months, while this process can take big pharma companies up to 2-3 years without the use of this technology. Even more crucially, in the light of the current coronavirus epidemic, Insilico repurposed its platforms to fight against COVID-19, identifying thousands of new molecules that could serve as potential medications in just four days.
While AI revolutionizes the way we diagnose diseases and develop novel drugs, advances in precision therapies, such as gene therapy and editing, hold promise for treating a wide range of previously incurable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, as well as rare genetic diseases.
CRISPR technology, described as a kind of molecular scissors for genes, has changed the way scientists approach gene editing. However, a recently released new generation of genome editing, called Prime Editing, appears to make it even easier to precisely and safely rewrite genes. According to Dr. David Liu and his colleagues from the Broad Institute, MIT, and Harvard, the new technique “in principle” puts 89% of human diseases in purview.
Horizon 2 technologies, such as AI for disease detection and drug discovery, gene therapy and editing, and other precision therapies are improving our ability to tackle infectious, age-related, and even fatal diseases. Armed with a growing amount of medical data and our ability to crunch it, we will be better able to assess individual risk for disease and target treatments—including at genetic level.
Horizon 3 – future: augmented humans and the Internet of Body
Now, on to the last horizon. To live to 200 years, we, as a society, would need to embrace new technologies such as human augmentation technologies and the Internet of Body. While potentially scary, this is also incredibly exciting, as these admittedly ‘sci-fi’ breakthroughs can become part of our everyday reality as soon as in 30-50 years’ time.
Many scientists believe all human body parts are ultimately replaceable. Indeed, modern-day science proves that it is possible. One day we may be able to replace our body parts from head to toe—from telescopes planted in our eyes to restore age-related vision loss to 3D-printing of body parts such as ear lobes, skin, and artificial vital organs.
Some glimpses of these astonishing technologies are already seen today. For example, LyGenesis, a Longevity Vision Fund portfolio company, is an organ regeneration biotechnology company that uses lymph nodes to regrow functioning organs, including the liver, thymus, pancreas and kidney – within the patient’s own body. LyGenesis’ technology can save lives by displacing the liver transplantation (an $800,000 procedure) with simple outpatient procedure, which can also help to solve the problem of inadequate transplantation organ supply and the potential risk of immune rejection of donor organs.
Big tech companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon, as well as a host of exciting startups you’ve never heard of are also investing in making these futuristic a ideas into available realities. While tech giants are bringing access to modern technologies and devices, and disruptive thinking, they are also collecting and analyzing huge personal data sets, which all together will soon form the Internet of Body. In future, connected devices from tech companies will be implanted, ingested and affixed to the human body in ways never before imagined. These connected devices will simultaneously generate tremendous amounts of data about our behaviors, our physiology, and even our DNA.
In summary, these horizons offer a good reminder that we can already live longer by taking small, simple steps to be healthier and happier. Be sure to follow us as we grow the Longevity Vision Fund, launch the Age Reversal XPRIZE and stay on top of news and developments in the longevity space
In the meantime, get a health check-up every year, walk a lot, eat your vegetables, and maybe meditate!