Longevity Economy 2.0: Biomarkers of Human Longevity as Major Catalyst for Investment, InsurTech, Longevity Stock Exchange and Financial Instruments
By Dmitry Kaminskiy, Founder and General Partner of Deep Knowledge Group
In ‘Longevity Industry 1.0: Defining the Biggest and Most Complex Industry in Human History’, we distilled the complex assembly of deep market intelligence and industry knowledge that Deep Knowledge Group and its Longevity-focused subsidiaries (including Longevity.Capital and Aging Analytics Agency) has developed over the past 5 years into a full-scope documentation of the global Longevity Industry, showing the public exactly how the international consortium of commercial and non-profit entities managed to define the overwhelmingly complex and multidimensional Longevity Industry for the first time, and how they created a tangible framework for its systematization and forecasting.
Whereas Longevity Industry 1.0 charted the inception and rise of the industry up to 2020, and provided the methodology and framework for defining and analyzing the industry, its sequel, ‘Longevity Industry 2.0: DeepTech Engineering the Accelerated Trajectory of Human Longevity - The Blueprint and Pathway from Longevity Industry 1.0 to 2.0’, outlines Deep Knowledge Group’s recent work towards formulating the pathway to Longevity Industry 2.0, and presents the framework for safeguarding the sector’s current upward trajectory and ensuring its optimized, sustainable growth towards its next stage and the realization of its practical benefits for humanity by the year 2030.
In the previous article in this series, we provided an overview of perhaps the strongest and most relevant modern precedent of safe and effective human experimentation and validation within the realm of SpaceTech and Space Medicine, exploring the lessons that can be learned, and on-boarded, by the Longevity Industry to facilitate a paradigm shift away from almost complete reliance on the results of model organism studies for due diligence, company valuation and investment decision making, and towards a more realistic, relevant and modern human-centered approach. Against this background, we also gave a brief overview of several interesting scientific and technological convergences between aging and the negative effects of spaceflight, and the ways in which the specific therapeutic approaches used to protect and preserve the health of astronauts intersects with Practical Healthy Human Longevity.
The present article now turns its attention to the ways in which the financial industry in particular can take on board some of these topics, relating both to biomarkers of Human Longevity, and to modern, sophisticated approaches and solutions to safe Human experimentation and validation of Longevity therapies, and the ways in which these two worlds (the science and technology or Practical Human Longevity, and the global Financial Industry) intersect. Subsequently, the article will then chart the specific scope of investment and financial approaches, entities and infrastructures required to truly transform these practices from tools being used by a small minority of Longevity investors (like Deep Knowledge Group, Deep Knowledge Ventures and Longevity.Capital) into industry standard practices to the mutual benefit of investors, companies, the general public and the entire industry itself.
Biomarkers of Human Longevity and InsurTech 2.0
In ‘Longevity Industry 1.0: Defining the Biggest and Most Complex Industry in Human History’, we predicted the continuing rise of a growing trend within the health and life insurance and InsurTech sector focused on “gamifying” Longevity by offering financial incentives (such as discounted rates on life and health insurance) in exchange for clients maintaining a healthy lifestyle and meeting certain health-related goals.
This trend continues to grow, and the most sophisticated and prospective approaches within this domain utilize Biomarkers of Human Longevity as the basis for tracking whether or not clients are, indeed, meeting their healthy lifestyle goals. Epigenetic clock tests that indicate an individual’s biological age are currently being marketed to life insurance companies to help them calculate an individual’s life expectancy. The first epigenetic test marketed to life insurance companies and reinsurance companies was developed at the University of California, Los Angeles, and licensed to Life Epigenetics, a subsidiary of GWG Holdings.
Since 2017, Life Epigenetics has been collecting biological samples and analysing data from life insurance policyholders and announced that it was pilot testing its epigenetic technology with two life insurance companies. In 2018, GWG’s new life insurance company YouSurance noted on the homepage of its website that ‘epigenetics is the future of life insurance’. Accurate age and aging rates assessments using epigenetic data could prove to be valuable to life insurance companies in underwriting, by allowing them to predict policyholders’ life expectancy more precisely.
Health insurers started to reward their members for better health habits. For instance, Oscar Health started to collect movement data through wearables, and offer a $1 Amazon gift card every day to its members for hitting his or her step goal, up to $240 a year. However, the relationship between movement data and health has not been clinically established, and Oscar Health’s attempts to control or assess health risk with wearable data fell short of expectation.
A similar reward approach was proposed by VitalityHealth. In addition to activity tracking, VitalityHealth also introduced a concept of Vitality Age providing rewards and benefits to individuals who chronologically are over 70, but predicted younger by simple survey-based test. While different wellness programs are gaining popularity, identifying true healthy behavior with clinically established health risk mitigation or prevention remains a challenge. More fundamentally, insurers need a rigorous overall measure of human health risk and longevity biomarkers can greatly benefit and strengthen current approaches.
As just one example, YouSurance, a digital managing general agency (MGA), is the first company to use epigenetic biomarkers to assess life insurance applicants’ health and lifespan. YouSurance’s patent pending process of predicting biological aging and all-cause mortality is step-change technology for the life insurance industry.
While the InsurTech sector constitutes the leading example today of financial companies on-boarding the practice application of Biomarkers of Longevity, we believe that it is just the start of a much larger trend that will involve the financial industry (across many sectors) incorporating the use of Biomarkers of Human Longevity (and potentially other market-ready, tangible forms of human validation described in previous articles of this series) into their products, services and strategies, in a number of different ways.
While this trend is interesting in its own right, as a novel form of growth and diversification within the global Longevity Financial Industry, its importance to the health and stability of the entire Longevity ecosystem extends far beyond this. It is Biomarkers of Human Longevity that will come to drive, support and serve as the foundation for several extremely important developments and forms of industry infrastructure that are required to sustain (and even accelerate) the Longevity Industry’s current trajectory of growth, while simultaneously neutralizing some of its largest and most dangerous sources of potential destabilization.
The Need for New Investment and Financing Infrastructure to Support the Shift from Mice Experiments to Human Validation
Now that we have demonstrated the existence of modern tools and techniques that would allow for safe and effective human-centered validation of Longevity therapies and technologies, it is necessary to describe the need for these approaches to be taken on board by the investment firms, as well as the market regulatory systems and infrastructure governing industry financing, which shape the Longevity Industry investment landscape.
In essence, smart investors need to prioritize funding for Longevity companies that employ some combination of the above-described human-centered validation platforms in order to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of their therapies, for the benefit of both themselves and the industry as a whole. By demanding that these practices become a standard part of scientific and technological due diligence, they will be hedging their own risk, while helping to neutralize an already-prevalent and dangerous trend that has the potential to weaken investor sentiment and topple the entire industry, to the extreme detriment of humanity.
Beyond this, however, given the increasing number of Longevity companies that are holding IPOs (19 in 2020 alone), the danger of additional public examples of declining market capitalization due to clinical trial failures by public Longevity companies only continues to grow.
The Challenge and Opportunity of Longevity Industry Liquidity
Of all the factors and industry components that limit the ongoing growth of the Longevity industry, and can enable the simultaneous acceleration of its developmental trajectory and the stabilization of its prospects as an industry, liquidity is the most important. While Longevity IPOs enable exposure to an increasing number of retail investors, there are many other mechanisms, systems and approaches to increasing the amount of institutional and retail investor exposure to the Longevity industry which have not yet been leveraged to their full potential.
There are enormous near-term opportunities for liquid Longevity indices and derivatives focused at individual investors (and HNWIs in particular), that enable exposure to the rising tide of the global Longevity Industry. This is a key mechanism for matching wealthspans to rising healthspans. Such products are evolving to create liquidity in derivatives that have historically been illiquid or had no liquidity. Existing InvestTech solutions have the potential to give investors exposure to relevant Longevity companies in a highly liquid and tradable manner, but are not being utilized sufficiently.
Several major investment banks have introduced Longevity-themed baskets and portfolios tied to various sectors of the Longevity industry. The objective is to give the massive global investment community exposure to the rapidly growing Longevity industry. Some specific examples include AXA's WF Framlington Longevity Economy Fund, and Julius Baer's Longevity Basket Tracker Certificate. The only drawbacks of such companies and funds is that they are limited to publicly-traded companies when the vast majority of true Longevity companies are privately held, and they are only very weakly and superficially tied to the actual Longevity industry partly as a result of being limited to public companies. Thankfully, there are existing InvestTech solutions and liquidity-generating approaches that can neutralize what we refer to as the Big Longevity Liquidity Gap.
During the past several years, a quite clear disproportion has emerged between various DeepTech sectors, in particular between the Longevity start-ups on the one hand, and the entire business model of venture capital funds on the other. There have also been big gaps and disruptions in the global financial system. There is a highly relevant big gap between progress in science and technology, and the outdated bureaucracy, in which most financial institutions remain mired, as though both exist in parallel universes.
This is happening for multiple reasons: At one end, DeepTech start-ups (including Longevity start-ups) have been suffering from a lack of access to relevant levels of seed investment. Although venture funds are by definition supposed to prioritize investments into the most disruptive technologies and start-ups, in reality, most of them prefer specifically to avoid DeepTech sectors, or to enter investment rounds at much later stages. As a consequence, the start-ups are forced to deal with angel investors. This creates a growth gap phenomenon known as the ‘Death Valley’: 99% of DeepTech start-ups do not survive the stage of growth between seed financing and the beginning of revenue generation or even ‘A” rounds.
At the other end, there is an extreme abundance of significant assets being held and preserved in bank accounts or in comparatively stable derivatives on a scale of tens of trillions. For instance, there is a tremendous volume of money on the scale of at least €1 trillion currently being stored in Swiss bank accounts with negative interest rates, which is itself an illogical phenomenon in a modern financial world. Yet the owners of these financial assets would nonetheless prefer to avoid investing them into venture funds, who are equally reluctant to invest into Longevity start-ups. Thus, the major source of these disproportions comes down to the issue of illiquidity.
There are many thousands of HealthTech startups and hundreds of Longevity start-ups in the UK, EU, USA and Asia-Pacific region and 99% of them are not publicly traded, which means that they are limited to seeking funding from angel investors and venture investors, which represents a very small fraction of the available global wealth. This situation creates an extreme funding deficit and illiquidity problem. This is a problem facing almost all DeepTech sectors, but the negative repercussions are particularly bad for the Longevity Industry, as it leads on the individual level to reduced quality of life and unnecessary deaths, and threatens to inflict crippling economic effects on national healthcare systems, pension and social security systems, and economies.
Therefore, an extreme abundance of financial assets ends up being preserved rather than invested. There are enormous amounts of financial assets being conserved within the umbrella of family offices (and we can estimate that there are around 5,000 of these) and hundreds of very conservative financial institutions, which hoard this capital simply due to a lack of safe, stably growing and predictable financial derivatives in which to invest. There is no relevant methodology to assess the amount of such assets, as they tend to keep this a secret. But this is at least several tens of trillions of dollars.
At the same time, many owners of these vast sums of wealth are nonetheless personally interested in Longevity, both as a prospective market with the capacity for unprecedented growth, and as a means to their own personal life extension. Even the most conservative investors, and the owners of the largest financial assets, now very clearly understand that the industries of AI and Longevity, separately, are two of the most prospective and relevant sectors to invest in, with full confidence that such investments will lead to relatively low-risk and stable profitability in the long term.
However, due to the lack of liquid tradable instruments related to the AI and Longevity industries, owners and managers of these assets still prefer to avoid any significant investments into these sectors. And in many cases, angel and venture investors are operating as sharks, exploiting this gross illiquidity for their own financial advantage, to the detriment of Longevity and other DeepTech start-ups. Therefore, financial innovations that can provide liquidity to Longevity companies and technologies, and form a bridge between the Longevity Industry and conservative financial markets, would inevitably enable the injection of something around 1% of the tens of trillions of dollars currently lying inert as "lazy money" within the global Longevity Industry.
In practice, this means that once such a liquidity bridge is established, it will have an immediate ability to attract around 300-500 billion dollars, conservatively, just within the first few years and at least several trillion within a 5-7-year horizon. Currently, the typical approach of these family offices and large financial institutions is to allocate 10% into alternative investments. Our most conservative estimate is that 10% of that wealth could be reasonably invested into the Longevity Industry, but only under one very specific condition: that mechanisms exist to provide investors with enough liquidity to be able to withdraw at least some of their investment within more reasonable timeframes than the typical lock-in periods of venture capital firms.
Considering the current natural pace of innovation in the Longevity and Financial industries, even without any specific innovations in the InvestTech field, the current problem of illiquidity will likely be resolved naturally in 7 to 10 years, but with these new bridges in place, within 3 to 5 years. It is important that these solutions take into account the interests of both groups — start-ups wishing to acquire additional funding, and conservative investors wishing to keep their funds in secure tradable financial instruments. In the meantime, one method of dealing with illiquidity is the creation of more modern hybrid investment funds, which would serve as the above-mentioned bridge between conservative investors and Longevity start-ups, and can provide more liquidity for investors (LP’s) in comparison with the usual venture funds. Elements of such solutions are already present in other industries and can be returned and further improved using the modern tools of financial engineering and InvestTech.
Longevity Financial Instruments
Longevity-based derivatives are going to be a preferred option for investors such as survivor bonds which pay a coupon based on the "survivorship" of a stated population group along with Longevity notes which reference a pool of pre-defined lives. Due to the rise in such Longevity-themed financial instruments and investment options, the government mortality Indices will be closely watched in the coming years. There will also be a significant increase in investment to adapt existing technologies and infrastructure to the aging population.
Today, the majority of Longevity indices and derivatives are packaged as risk management solutions. The current synthetic Longevity products are emerging Longevity indices, Longevity notes, Longevity swaps and other Longevity derivatives such as survivor bonds. The attraction of Longevity-based financial products that take on Longevity risk is that they are standardized and tradable which allows massive liquidity to larger institutions that buy them such as pension funds and asset management companies. Since the Longevity risk on insurance and annuity contracts are swappable the secondary insurance market might see minimal increases in liquidity although life insurance products and annuities might not necessarily be extremely liquid in the future. These kinds of practices are the simplest and least modern form of this general trend.
We can also envision the emergence of financial instruments and analytics tied to biomarkers of aging (which serve as proxies for measuring the current state of individuals’ and populations’ biological aging), and to the technological and scientific validation of Longevity companies’ therapeutic pipelines and the more modern and sophisticated approaches to safe human experimentation and validation described in the third article of this series.
More specifically, we envision the development of 3 types of analytical products. All of these products will be derived from sets of biomarkers of aging and Longevity, and panels of biomarkers which are off the shelf analytical dashboards:
An analytical panel will be launched for hedge funds and investment banks to predict success or failure of particular molecules in the later stages of clinical trials and provide investors with the signals to form long or short positions.
Technological due diligence for venture investors to evaluate the claims of emerging companies on whether their technologies can deliver actual results on humans will be made available in detailed formats.
An analytical panel could also be launched for InsurTech-HealthTech companies focused on retail clients. Currently we are aware of at least 6 companies working on similar types of solutions, and we can envision the emergence of another 10-20 such companies in the next 2-3 years.
Depending on the management, scientific team, and business executive team, we will see a variety of specific structuring of biomarker panels and actual analytical/financial products based on them.
Longevity Stock Exchange
A second, more innovative method of neutralizing the disparities and inefficiencies behind the Big Longevity Liquidity Gap is the establishment of a specialized stock exchange for Longevity start-ups. Such an entity would be the first of its kind in the world, and if it is supported by key government officials, and integrated with the Longevity startups ecosystem, it could easily secure the position of a leading, progressive Longevity financial hub. The ultimate goal of this project would be the deployment of a Longevity Industry index (similar to the NASDAQ-Composite, which serves as an indicator of expectations on the growth of the US tech industry).
Alternative Stock Exchanges are usually associated with rising wealth within regional boundaries. They enable brokers to do their business in the selling of shares to companies and vice versa with heightened efficiency. They enhance companies’ access to capital and the chance to increase their views and public image. All savvy businesses can increase the power of stock sharing to expand and enhance their companies. While advantages to financial and regulatory costs are connected with being listed on the alternative stock exchange, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. A Longevity-based stock exchange would provide further access to capital, profile enhancement, control maintenance and reduction of the cost of capital and would increase the ability to attract investment.
However, the establishment of such a stock exchange should involve the use of modern, sophisticated approaches to human-centered validation of Longevity therapeutics and technologies (including biomarkers of human Longevity, and the other platforms for human experimentation and validation discussed previously) as a necessary prerequisite for companies to be listed on such exchanges.
The first nation to establish a specialized Longevity Stock exchange will have effectively created something resembling a perpetual motion machine for the further growth of its national Longevity Industry, having built an engine for providing its companies with sufficient investment and accelerating the market-readiness of their technologies, products and services. The nation that establishes marketplaces for both shares in publicly-traded Longevity companies and financial instruments and derivatives built as a second layer upon its Longevity Industry would be capable of attracting several trillion dollars of potential wealth that is currently inaccessible.
The levels of sophistication of current financial products are limited by status-quo financial and legal frameworks, but the platforms and frameworks of new technologies have the potential to allow for the creation of truly innovative financial products and systems. In our view, the ideal solution for designing novel financial instruments and products is to establish a new specialized financial marketplace in the form of a specialized stock exchange with a formal license, to serve as the base and launching pad for a wider variety of financial instruments and systems tied to the Longevity Industry.
Eventually, this could take the form of a Longevity industry financial index, similar to the NASDAQ composite, which would represent the current state of the Longevity industry in one particular region. We suspect that these types of framework will most likely emerge in regions that have stability, recognition within the broader international financial community, and a prospective domestic Longevity Industry, yet which are large enough to encompass the behavior of the Longevity Industry globally.
At the present time, we see London and the US as the most prospective regions in this regard, although Switzerland, Singapore and Hong Kong have fairly strong prospects as well. A Longevity Stock Exchange provides increased liquidity, which in turn would enable greater flexibility and leverage for the further growth of the companies listed on the exchange, and therefore greater opportunities for the global advancement of the Longevity Industry as a whole. More broadly, as a smart city-state, Singapore currently has the smallest gap between Health-Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE) and life expectancy, and is very well known for rapidly implementing frameworks for the balanced strategic support of innovative startups and technologies, and for quickly attracting foreign talents for highly focused industry development, which may serve as an efficient basis and ecosystem not only for accelerated technological innovation, but also financial innovations.
Specialized stock exchanges are nothing new. Currently, for example, investors can dig into about 50 major commodity markets worldwide. Those include markets for soft commodities such as wheat, coffee, cocoa and other agricultural products, and markets for commodities that are mined, such as gold and oil. NASDAQ fits that profile as well; it was created as a stock exchange for IT companies and is currently the home of tech-oriented stocks. Several examples exist of the successful implementation of innovative approaches to legal and regulatory frameworks, administration and management which lay the groundwork for structuring the right approach to establishing a Longevity Stock Exchange, including the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), a subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange, which gives medium-sized companies opportunities to be publicly listed in an intermediate way, providing them with a framework for raising tens of millions of pounds (rather than just several million at best) by opening up access to the broader conservative investment community, which prefers to deal only with tradeable, highly liquid assets.
Establishing a Longevity Stock Exchange would require the public listing of at least 100 Longevity-focused companies to create good enough diversity and potential volume for trading. Thereafter, the more advances there are in Longevity, the more even the most conservative investors will want to invest. By that point they will have been well advised that Longevity is an industry like no other. It is by such means that increased global Longevity will be transformed from a threat into an opportunity.
Longevity Composite Exchanges and Longevity Indexes
To take this concept even further, if that nation were to then build a Longevity Index as a second layer on top of this Longevity Stock Exchange in order to create the analogue of a NASDAQ composite for its HealthTech, Preventive Medicine, Precision Health and Longevity industries, this could become one of the most predictable, stably and rapidly growing investment opportunities, capable of attracting trillions of pounds worth of lazy money from conservative investors. Furthermore, because Longevity is very much a science and technology-driven industry, it is far more easily predictable than, for example, the larger tech or real-estate market.
The threats and opportunities of global Longevity are of increasing interest to global finance and an increasingly frequent topic of discussion at international conferences, where there is more and more consideration among attendees of the future shape of global finance. The increased liquidity that these would provide would set in motion a self-perpetuating cycle of Longevity Finance: with greater progress in achieving healthy Longevity, more owners of wealth will want to invest in the repeatedly reinvigorated labour force endowed with a greater healthspan, leading to further growth and greater Healthy Longevity.
The nation that initiates these reforms would be capable of attracting several trillion pounds in potential wealth that is currently inaccessible. Such a nation is more likely to be characterised by a technocratic government structure with large financial centers and detailed industrial strategies. Many countries, including the US, China and Switzerland, are heading towards insolvency as the number of retirees skyrockets. The Longevity-progressive countries that first develop a fully functional and integrative Longevity Financial Ecosystem will succeed to spawn a whole new industry, the capitalization of which could exceed anything ever considered by financial markets.
Financial Instruments and Futures Markets Tied to National Longevity Economies
Another prospective type of Longevity-focused financial product and market that we can expect to emerge in the next several years are National Longevity Economy financial instruments and Futures Indexes, which are tied to either the current or predicted future state and performance of entire National Economies with respect to Healthy Longevity and Aging Population.
More specifically, such instruments would be tied to the extent with which national governments, individual economy, healthcare and industrial development industries, international policy organizations and other responsible stakeholders formulate and implement policies and development strategies capable of transforming the challenge of aging into the opportunity of Healthy Longevity for the mutual benefit of their citizens and their economy.
The ability to invest in individual countries' Longevity-based economic conditions (eg. social security etc.) is a large opportunity for institutional investors to try and reach untapped markets and produce significant alpha whilst taking on minimal risk. The emergence of governmental Longevity based indices would add another avenue for investors to safely park large amounts of money with large investments on long and short bias on systematic Longevity-based risks taken on by governments around the world.
These types of instruments can also be broken down in a more granular fashion, tied to specific global regions, and to specific individual components of entire national economies, such as the current state of Longevity success and progressiveness of different regions’ social security systems, national healthcare systems, government-funded pension funds, level of Healthy Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE), gap between HALE and unadjusted life expectancy (and the specific trajectory of certain nations growth in HALE as measured by Biomarkers of Human Longevity), and others.
Such instruments and markets could be either structured and traded individually, or in the form of segregated baskets (multi-future instruments) and markets. This futures market would create a framework for forecasting positive and negative scenarios surrounding the intersection of what we refer to as the Opposed Longevity MegaTrends of Aging Population and Advanced Biomedicine.
Meanwhile, in addition to creating a new type of Longevity-focused investing (taking long positions or short based how well specific regions are facing the challenge and opportunity of National Longevity and Aging Population), this type of system would also provide tangible inputs of investors and financial corporations on the most prospective regions to actually invest in from a Longevity Industry standpoint.
Additionally, this type of marketplace would be ideally suited for sovereign wealth funds in particular, which typically make their investments with the specific economic prospects of their own region in mind.
In reality, Longevity serves as a highly optimal target sector for investment by sovereign wealth funds, in that it has the potential to deliver straightforward, direct value to citizens by:
Promoting the extension of Healthy Longevity,
Generating lucrative and stable returns by being at the intersection of the most promising an sophisticated technologies and companies, and
Promoting growth and stability of their entire economy due to ancillary benefits relating to increasing their region’s National Healthy Longevity (including reducing the economic burden of their aging population and increasing the productivity of their workforce, and overall economic participation of their Silver Generation).
Biomarkers of Human Longevity as the Key for Longevity Financial and Investment Prospects
At the heart and foundation of all of these potential approaches, technologies, products, instruments and infrastructures at the intersection of the Longevity Industry, the global financial market and investment, are the array of market-ready solutions to safe, human-centered validation of Longevity therapeutics, including foremost among them Biomarkers of Human Longevity, as well as in silico human modeling, in vitro tests using human cells and tissues, human-animal chimeras, and sub-therapeutic in vitro “skin-on-a-chip” testing).
In some cases, the use of such technologies is fundamental to the product, service or approach itself (such as the use of Biomarkers of Human Longevity in InsurTech or as the means of tracking population-level Healthy Longevity in financial instruments tied to the health (or Healthy Longevity) of specific populations. In other cases, these modern approaches for human validation serve as the major safeguarding factor to de-risk institutional, venture or retail investments and to preserve investor sentiment. Either way, it should be clear, at the close of this series of articles, that the paradigm shift from model organisms studies to safe and effective human validation is the foremost catalyst and most optimal tool for protecting and ensuring the stability of both the Longevity Industry as it stands today, as well as its future developmental trajectory.