Why we get old is surprisingly something we still know very little about. Could it be that we just haven’t discovered the mechanisms to live forever? These 5 start ups believe so – for them immortality is very much a real ambition.
This San Francisco based start up are trying to eliminate age related disease forever. Unity hope to confine a wide range of debilitating illnesses to the same place as polio, measles and other almost-eradicated diseases.
And they have plenty of famous backers too, having just raised $116m funding in October 2016 from investors including Jeff Bezos, Fidelity and the Mayo Clinic.
Their focus is to selectively eliminate senescent cells – cells that have reached the end of their replication life cycles but still persist in the body to harmful effect. Once normal human cells have divided their maximum number of times they switch on an “emergency brake” to stop them dividing further. This cellular senescence has its importance in anti-tumor mechanisms, as it prevents cells from multiplying out of control, but senescent cells can secrete inflammatory molecules that damage surrounding cells and tissues.
Unity have shown that by selectively removing these senescent cells from the body, they can reverse or prevent age related diseases like osteoarthritis, eye disease and kidney disease.
Without disease to slow us down, who knows how long we could live for. Unity and its impressive list of investors certainly see a world without age as we know it.
Calico Life Sciences
Calico are a Google founded research and development company with the mission to understand and extend life. Whilst we don’t know exactly what they are doing, CEO Arthur Levinson, former Genentech CEO and current Apple chairman, proudly declares Calico’s ambition as tackling “one of life’s greatest mysteries.”
Even though we can’t see what’s going on inside Calico’s black box, it is understood that they use Google’s core data handling skills to compute a deeper understanding of the aging process. Sources close to Calico have suggested that the focus is entirely on researching new technologies, which eventually leads to marketable products.
There is no current timeline, but the right team is in place for some potentially era-shifting results. Maybe one day we’ll all be buying Google-branded life extension pills.
Human Longevity Inc.
Human Longevity Inc. (HLI), founded by Craig Venter of Human Genome Project fame, is a company focused on extending the healthy, “high performance” human lifespan. Unlike the others on this list, HLI are genomic-based, meaning they work in genetic data – building the world’s largest and most comprehensive database of whole genotype, phenotype and clinical data.
HLI are developing computing and machine learning abilities to understand aging and its processes from a genetic level – with the aim to produce personalised stem-cell therapies that act at the body’s sources of premature death.
With such broad data and the AI power to match, HLI are hoping to understand exactly why our bodies get old. Once we know that, then we can about go about stopping it. The “regeneration generation” as co-Founder Bob Hariri puts it, is not too far away indeed.
Okay, so even though Methuselah are not a start up, they are still just as active in the longevity scene. Founded in 2003, the non-profit organization have since given over $4 million in funding for research and development in regenerative medicine.
Methuselah have a broad interest in the market, fostering growth through kickstarting projects. As a charity they are funded by donations but by building awareness they hope to achieve their vision:
“By advancing tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, we want to create a world where 90-year olds can be as healthy as 50-year olds—by 2030.”
Again, whilst not a start up, Terasem, deserves a place on this list. Another non-profit, founded by Sirius Satellite founder, Martine Rothblatt, Terasem hold the belief that immortality could come through a blend of technology and biology.
The vision is that, rather than needing our bodies to stay alive, we upload our brain’s data to a software program. This program can be installed in human-like robots to make “us”, us. It sounds like a true moonshot ambition, but Terasem is an active scientific experiment, backed by real research. And if does come off, then potentially we’ll all be able to live forever.
Now whilst the end result is still a long way away, Terasem are starting the process with letting people store their “mind files”. These are the digital records of a person’s life, such as emails, computer files and social media data – so that they can be used to help recreate a person’s mind when the technology is eventually developed.
With much research into aging and longevity, it would seem inevitable that we reach “immortality”. What this would actually look like remains to be seen. One thing for sure though, getting older just ain’t what it used to be…