A group of wealthy investors is gathering virtually in Switzerland to stake their money on a new asset class. It’s longevity, underpinned by the science and technology of longer and healthier lives, and it could be a multi-billion-dollar market.
This content was published on October 1, 2020
“Longevity will become one of the largest investment opportunities in the coming decades. It will disrupt not only the healthcare system, but society and the economy in general,” says Marc Bernegger, a Swiss entrepreneur who is co-hosting the investor conference.
“Longevity is a topic that moves investors. Besides making a nice profit, they share an interest in staying healthy and living longer.”
The longevity industry not only defies ageing, but its ambitions can sometimes defy belief. One of the speakers at the event, Aubrey de Grey, created the SENS Research Foundation in California. Here they are exploring ways of repairing cells in our bodies.
De Grey insists that treatments such as this can rejuvenate people, transforming a 70-year-old into the biological equivalent of someone aged 40. There are people alive today who will reach the age of 200, he predicts.
In a recent interview with the HandelsZeitung newspaper, de Grey said the only obstacle to turning this research into real health products is the rate funding. He dedicates a significant part of his time to trying to persuade investors to part with more of their money.
Impacts on society
This is where the Longevity Investors Conference steps in. It was originally intended to be staged in St Moritz on October 1, before Covid-19 got in the way and forced it to be held online. The pandemic is another powerful reason for introducing investors to age-defying health projects, says Bernegger.
Investors will hear about technological and medicinal “cures” against ageing. This will include biomedical research into genetics and small molecules, gerontology, anti-ageing therapeutics and health products aimed at altering metabolism.
The conference will also tackle the thorny issue of what impact potential leaps in longevity will have on society: from demographics and the environment to genetic manipulation and the burden on social welfare funds.
“The impact of longevity will be huge and must be anticipated early on to prevent negative outcomes,” says Bernegger.
Bernegger and his co-host Tobias Reichmuth are no strangers to cutting-edge investments. Reichmuth set up the green technology fund SUSI Partners in 2009 and the Singularity Group in 2017, which invests in AI, big data, neuroscience and other projects.
Both are among the founders of the Crypto Finance Conference (CfC), which attracts billionaires such as brewery magnate Jorge Paolo Lemann. The average net worth of investors at the annual St Moritz event is CHF30 million ($33 million). There is no shortage of cash in their contacts books.
Bernegger also talks about the creation of a “Longevity Valley” of research institutes, investors and companies in Switzerland. The catchphrase is becoming the de rigueur term to describe new industry clusters, such as “Crypto Valley” and the upcoming “Trust Valley” of cybersecurity specialists.
Switzerland has strong pharmaceutical and biotech sectors plus leading universities, but it appears to have some way to go before catching up with the United States and Britain on longevity research.
The Hong Kong-based Deep Knowledge Group (DKG), which has set up Longevity Capital and the Longevity Swiss Foundation in Geneva and is planning to apply for a Swiss fintech licence for its Longevity Bank, believes Switzerland is an ideal future base for the growing industry.
DKG has boldly stated that the Alpine country will become a “global longevity financial megahub by 2025”. It points to Switzerland’s high life expectancy, healthcare spending, strengths in biotech and preventive precision, political stability, and, above all, its innovative financial system.