Stop Looking for the Fountain of Youth: Invest Instead in Healthy Aging in Place

In recent years, the eternal topic of aging and the concern that people have around this natural process has gained increased attention from the media, entrepreneurs, and scientists. This topic was even included in the HBO TV series “Silicon Valley,” where one of the characters undergoes a blood transfusion from a younger individual to replace their “old” blood with new blood full of youthful energy. While, this might only seem like a work of fiction, a startup called Ambrosia is actually offering these “young blood” transfusions at $8,000 each. In fact, during the past five years, a number of companies and projects have emerged intending to battle the process of aging. For instance, an Alphabet subsidiary, called Calico, intends to use biotechnology to understand aging-related health conditions and develop “interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives.”

A number of companies and individuals have been expressing an active interest in innovations focused on slowing down the process of aging or extending human health and life span. Therefore, in order to identify which types of technologies are being developed and which ones are catching investors’ attention, we looked at investments in the space from the beginning of 2016 until today. A little over $500 million has been poured into companies developing aging-related solutions since 2016. Depending on their main technology focus, we split these companies into six categories: biotechnology, skin treatments, food and beverage, software, hair, and aging in place. The figure below shows how much money was poured into each of these buckets and the number of funding rounds it took to raise these amounts of money since the beginning of 2016.

Fig 1 – Investments in aging-related companies since 2016

Biotechnology is the category that captured the largest amounts of capital during the past couple of years, where companies such as Human Longevity and Unity Biotechnology raised $220 million and $151 million respectively. The former focuses on analyzing genotypic and phenotypic data for early disease detection and planning of proactive health treatments to extend human life and improve quality of life. On the other hand, Unity Biotechnology is developing senolytic medicines aiming to “prevent, halt, or reverse diseases” related to aging. The bucket that takes the second place in number of investment rounds and amount of cash raised is the one that includes aging-in-place -related companies. However, in this category we see significantly smaller investment rounds than in the biotechnology area. One of the most significant funding rounds for aging-in-place solutions was Intuition Robotics’ Series A led by Toyota Research Institute during the summer of 2017, where the company raised $14 million. Intuition Robotics is developing a robotic companion with natural communication capabilities for seniors living alone in their own homes.

While innovation around biotechnology for anti-aging solutions are catching investors’ attention, a more relevant and pressing topic that investors shouldn’t overlook is around technologies aiming to enable aging in place. According to the United Nations, the world is aging at an alarming pace. Today, the percentage of people who are 60 and older make up 12.3% of the world population, but in 2050, that number will rise to almost 22%. The senior market will grow significantly in the near future and readers should look for competitive technologies that enable them to capitalize on this space before even looking to expand human health and lifespan. Nevertheless, the aging-in-place space is relatively complex, due to the diversity of the stakeholders involved and the requirements for the different types of individuals (e.g. independent, ill, and disabled). To help readers identify potential areas of opportunity within the space, we are currently producing a report on the taxonomy of aging in place, which aims to shed some light on the current gaps and crowded areas in the market of seniors aging at home.

By: Jessica Hernández