Biomedical

Extending the human lifespan. Can a company achieve this?

The startup Human Longevity Inc., is facing issues, as investors take a step back, and the company loses 80% of their value.

The goal of Human Longevity, is to increase the human lifespan. They plan to do so, by analyzing a lot of human genomes and using machine learning to find patterns in the data. In theory this is great, especially for 2013, when the company was founded. And this is why they got hundreds of millions from many investors. In 2017, they were worth 1.6 billion dollars, but this is now reduced by 80% to 310 million dollars.

Most of the problems with this company were financial problems. It looks like they expanded to early and too much. Biotechnology companies need time to develop and gain people’s trust. Especially when you offer a service that starts at 5000$. With such high costs, you should expect few clients with very specific needs.

After the initial funding issue, the company had to stay with only 150 out of their 300 employees. The problem, at least from my perspective is in the business part. They wanted to do research, to find ways to extend the lifespan. Therefore they needed money, and participants for their study. So essentially, they charged people to participate in their study, in exchange for some extra data analysis.

There is no problem in this logic. Even 23andMe, a very successful company operates in a similar way. But they charge 150£, which is something everyone can afford and not many companies can provide. Not only that, they also give useless, but interesting ancestry results. So they do have many customers, with not huge profit margins, but making 2£ profit from 3000 customers, and making 3000£ profit from 2 customers is the same.

My point is, 23andMe, could, and is probably doing the same. They can analyze some samples more, or even sequence whole genomes and do their own research. They do have enough profits, and even if that’s not the case, an investor would agree on that. Human Longevity on the other hand, wanted a research company and ended up with a poor business plan for a great idea that can’t really be sold as a product.

It’s not only that, there are many investor/business aspects of the company that went wrong. And internally they may have had an excellent plan. But with so much funding, you need excellent management and things started to go wrong there. You can read some more articles on this, links in the sources at the end of this one. It is interesting to look at the business side of biotechnology and genetics. Now Human Longevity still offers this service, as diagnostics. It is interesting but i don’t think it is very profitable. We will see though how this whole thing ends up.

If you are interested, leave a comment, let’s have a discussion, and if you like this article you can also follow Qul Mind on Facebook and Twitter.

Sources: https://medcitynews.com/2018/12/former-unicorn-genetics-startup-human-longevity-loses-its-horn/?rf=1

https://www.humanlongevity.com/about/overview/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/genomics-startup-human-longevitys-valuation-falls-80-1544187724

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/37114085276

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