Forever young, right? Searching for a fountain of youth has obsessed humans probably for as long as there have been humans. In 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León and his crew accidentally stumbled upon Florida while searching for a fabled Fountain of Youth. This magical water source was supposed to be capable of reversing the aging process and curing sickness. It didn’t work out for Ponce de Leon but that hasn’t stopped others from continuing the quest.
Now thanks to new advances, some tech companies are discovering innovative ways to try to turn back the clock. And not a moment too soon. One of the largest population cohorts ever – the Baby Boom Generation – stands poised on the precipice of decrepitude. Some have already fallen prey to the chronic diseases that come with aging and have left us too soon.
By 2050, the US population aged 65 and older is projected to reach 83.7M, almost double its population in 2012, according to tech research news aggregator CB Insights. And Gen X isn’t that far behind them.
“Pharmaceutical corporates and tech giants alike have begun investing in startups that are specifically aiming to tackle the root causes of aging or age-related diseases,” they state. “Startups are building everything from machine learning genomics platforms to implantable ocular lenses in the fight against aging.”
Aside from the do-gooder aspect of helping people live longer healthier lives, there’s also serious money to be made and career-building jobs to do.
Here are 10 private anti-aging companies they identified as being hot based on funding, quality of investors, and how they are innovating to tackle issues associated with the aging process.
1. Revision Optics – A Visionary Company For Restoring Eyesight
As people age, their eyes lose the ability to shift focus. Even if they have been nearsighted for much of their lives and need glasses or contact lenses to see things at a distance, they will suddenly lose the ability to also see things up close. Reading texts and food packaging labels becomes impossible. This condition typically demands having two pairs of glasses or a type of glasses called bifocals with lenses divided for distance and reading.
Revision Optics invention Raindrop® Near Vision Inlay permanently corrects this problem by reshaping the front part of the eye. Raindrop is a small transparent soft disc called an inlay. It is like a soft contact lens that gets inserted into the eye in a quick 10-minute procedure. The Raindrop is designed to help people regain near vision without the need for reading glasses. Revision claims that within a week, 98% of patients can read a newspaper.
Locations – San Jose, San Diego and Los Angeles
Average salary – $112K (Paysa data)
VC Funding – $172M
2. Unity Biotechnology – Tackling Old Age At the Cellular Level
When you get down to it, aging happens at the cellular level. Often it’s the pathways of cellular aging and its biochemical byproducts that silently launch individuals on the road to ruin through the disease process. Often by the time symptoms become overt, it’s too late. Unity Biotechnology is on track to fix that.
They are developing medicines to target vulnerabilities unique to aging cells, and to eliminate them from the human body while leaving healthy cells unaffected. Right now they have pre-clinical trial products to address arthritis and vision problems. And products to address artery and kidney health in the research stage. The Mayo Clinic and Jeff Bezos are among the VC backers.
Location – South San Francisco
VC Funding – $116.3M
3. Frequency Therapeutics – Cranking Up the Volume For Aging Ears
Great news for Boomers who went to all those Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath concerts. With scientists from MIT and Harvard Medical School at the helm, this start-up company’s focus is on chronic noise-caused hearing loss, a potential $20 billion market. Backers are betting on a breakthrough therapy that uses a proprietary combination of newly designed drugs to regrow dormant inner ear cells. No hearing aids or cochlear implants needed. This treatment restores the body’s natural hearing. Experts consider it one of the latest promising drug cocktails in the rapidly emerging science of regenerating damaged body tissue.
The company features a very heavy duty scientific advisory board and clinical advisory board.
Location – Woburn, MA and Farmington, CN
VC Funding – $32M
4. Calico – Putting Google Muscle Into Age-Related Illness
Aging and its attendant health-related consequences is a big picture issue. What better company to help address it than big tech Google? Time Magazine nicknamed the company “Google vs. Death” in 2013 when Google first incubated the California Life Company aka Calico. Now under the wing of Google’s Alphabet and headed by the former chief scientist at Genentech, the company is focused on unraveling the genetics of aging and developing therapeutic solutions.
With deep pockets, Calico can take its time for a full court press r & d efforts with a long-term focus. As you might expect from a medical company with roots in tech, there are jobs available for data science engineers and machine learning engineers.
Location – South San Francisco
VC Funding – $730M (from Alphabet according to Recode)
5. Nuritas – Putting the pep back in peptides
It’s Irish and Bono, the Edge and Marc Benioff are backers. How’s that for a cool factor? Basically, Nuritas is a company that’s creating a mashup of genomics and AI to develop turbo-charged peptides. Peptides are like protein’s smaller smarter sibling and help regulate important biological activities at the molecular level. Nuritas claims its biologically active food-sourced peptides can be useful to combat conditions like diabetes and inflammation and also may be applicable to age-related skincare.
Chemical giant BASF’s nutrition subsidiary recently cinched a deal to start pumping Nuritas-produced peptides into their products.
Location – Dublin, Ireland
VC Funding – $8.8M
6. Elysium – A Possible Fountain of Youth in a Pill
Nutritional supplements purported to restore youth are nothing new. What is new is the new science and technology now available to make them. The silver bullet ingredients in this latest pill are intended to increase the body’s levels of an enzyme called NAD. NAD is vital to how cells use energy, a key player in metabolism. Boosting it seems to rejuvenate cells in mice in the company’s studies. But does taking NR boost NAD levels enough to slow aging in humans? Nobody knows yet but Elysium’s cornerstone supplement product Basis is already available for purchase at $60 for an individual bottle of a one month supply.
Location – New York City
VC Funding – $26.1M
7. Recursion Pharmaceuticals – Turning cellular model behavior into disease cures
What if you could reverse engineer diseases by creating hundreds of disease cell models then deploying inventive biological science with machine learning techniques, including deep learning, to discover new therapeutic opportunities? What if you easily could make tens of thousands of cells per model and extract nearly 1,000 structural features from every cell? With rapid analysis techniques, Recursion Pharmaceuticals is trying to determine whether many types of genetic-based diseases can all respond to similar treatments – typically drugs that are already in existence. Last year the company won an award from NIH’s National Institute on Aging to support the application of Recursion’s advanced drug screening platform to finding treatments for chronic diseases of aging.
Location – Salt Lake City, UT
VC Funding – $58.6M
Average salary – $160K (Paysa data)
8. PowerVision – Powering Up Declining Eyesight
PowerVision takes on the same problem as Revision Optics above; blurriness while reading, sewing, using a phone, or doing anything that requires close-up vision. Starting as early as age 40, people experiencing this age-related loss of vision flexibility may also experience headaches, eye strain, or a tired feeling when doing things that require near vision. PowerVision’s new FluidVision® Accommodating Intraocular Lens fixes that and cataracts, an age-related clouding of vision through a surgically implanted fluid-containing lens. It’s basically cataract surgery as a twofer. Although it is still weaving its way through approval process, the company’s three years’ worth of follow-up testing reports restored seamless vision from near to far. Investors include Johnson & Johnson and Medtronics.
Location – Belmont, CA
VC Funding – $111.2M
9. Human Longevity Inc. – Using Genomics to Short Circuit Illness
Human Longevity’s goal is to take the guesswork out of healthcare by personalizing it for the 21st century. No more need to risk cancer or heart disease not being caught early enough. Human Longevity’s Whole Genome is a physician-ordered comprehensive report that compares every letter of your DNA with the world’s largest database of sequenced genomes and phenotypic information. The extensive gene mapping can help people catch diseases earlier than ever before possible so they can jumpstart treatment. Your DNA can also provide clues as to how to best customize any disease treatments you may need now or in the future.
Location – San Diego, CA
Average salary – $133K (Paysa data)
VC Funding – $300M
10. Insilico Medicine – Harnessing Big Data to Fight Big Diseases
Cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and diabetes, may have met their match. Insilico Medicine, a bioinformatics company located at the Emerging Technology Centers on Johns Hopkins University’s campus, has them in its deep learning crosshairs. The company’s focus is using AI, genomics and all the big data tools in its arsenal for drug discovery and drug repurposing to vanquish these and other age-related diseases. With its combination of research on aging and advanced deep learning algorithms, the company provides services to pharmaceutical companies and academic programs while also maintaining a focus on its own research efforts. It’s been nominated as one of the top 5 companies with the greatest social impact for its pioneering work in applying deep learning to drug development and longevity research.
Location – Baltimore, MD
Average salary – $139K (Paysa data)
VC Funding – $12M
If you go to work for one of these biotech companies focused on fighting age-related decline and disease, you’d be doing your future self a very big favor – not to mention your parents.