The Quest to Extend Human Lifespans

You can accept it, you can deny it or you can fight it. I think our society is dominated by people who are into denial or acceptance, and I prefer to fight it.

The quote above is from venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. He was referring to our mortality, and the attitudes you can choose to take when facing it.

It is no secret that Thiel is quite passionate about trying to extend human lifespans. He believes technology can be one of our main allies when it comes to helping humanity achieve this.

And Thiel is putting his money where his mouth is.

He has poured cash into the Methuselah Foundation. The foundation is looking to turn 90-year-olds into healthy and energetic 50-year-olds by 2030.

He has also invested in Unity Biotechnology, which is looking to ‘halt, slow or reverse age-associated diseases, while restoring human health.

Yet Thiel is not the only one in Silicon Valley looking to fight off death.

 

Fighting Off Death…

The fact is that many in the tech sector are obsessed with delaying the effects of ageing and living longer.

And the Silicon Valley tycoons have billions they can pour into this research…along with some of the best brains in the world.

But, before you dismiss their quest completely, let me tell you that extending human life and immortality is nothing new. In fact, immortal cells already exist.

The HeLa cells came from Henrietta Lacks, a patient who died from cervical cancer in 1951. Scientists have used them to develop vaccines and test anti-tumour medicines. They seem to be the first ‘immortal’ cell lines; that is, cells that can be reproduced infinitely in a lab.

In 2014, investor and doctor Joon Yun launched the ‘Palo Alto Longevity Prize’. It offers US$1 million to anyone who finds an end to ageing by ‘hacking the code of life’. The prize wants to promote the ‘extension of a sustained and healthy lifespan’.

As Yun told The New Yorker: ‘I have the idea that aging is plastic, that it’s encoded. If something is encoded, you can crack the code. If you can crack the code, you can hack the code!

Facebook and Google have joined forces to present the ‘Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences’, which awards a cash prize for advances on extending human life.

And in September 2013, Alphabet Inc. [NASDAQ:GOOGL] (Google’s parent company) created the California Life Company Labs (Calico).

Its mission?

To tackle ‘one of life’s greatest mysteries: ageing’. They are looking to use technology to understand the biology that controls lifespan, using that knowledge ‘to devise interventions that enable people to lead longer healthier lives’.

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But Calico is not the only way Google has jumped into health. In fact, as you can see below, Google has been increasing its healthcare investing in the last five years.

The thing is, as CBI insights recently noted in a report, one of the biggest challenges in healthcare is data…and, as everyone knows, Google is quite good with data.

Source: CBI Insights

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One of the biggest challenges in healthcare is that data is heavily siloed and there’s very little interoperability between systems.

It can be difficult to integrate data across differing EMRs even within the same hospital, not to mention data across mobile apps, connected devices, and other health-tracking products. In fact, while 79% of doctors believe that having all available patient data in one place is critical to their jobs, only 14% could access EMR information across different departments, patient care centers, etc., even within the same hospital.

Google believes it can be a part of the solution by powering a new data infrastructure layer via 3 key efforts: Create new data pipes for health giants, push Google Cloud, build Google’s own healthcare datasets for third parties

In order to increase interoperability among hospitals, physicians, and other relevant parties, the industry is slowly shifting to a new technology known as FHIR (Faster Healthcare Interoperability Resources). FHIR creates standards for different data elements so that developers can build application programming interfaces (APIs) that can be used to access datasets from different systems.

Google is betting that accessing, organizing, and interpreting this data is going to be the future of healthcare.

Google is using its strength, data, to dive into the health sector.

But it’s not the only tech company using their strengths to do this.

The thing is, world population is ageing, and it’s ageing fast.

 

The World Population Is Ageing

According to the World Health Organization, in less than two years the number of people aged 60+ will outnumber the children younger than five. Which means demand for healthcare is increasing.

And, as Business Insider recently reported, the healthcare industry is struggling to keep up with it:

The healthcare industry is undergoing a profound transformation. Costs are skyrocketing, consumer demand for more accessible care is growing rapidly, and healthcare companies are unable to keep up. 

‘Health organizations are increasingly turning to tech companies to facilitate this transformation in care delivery and lower health expenditures. The potential for tech-led digital health initiatives to help healthcare providers and insurers deliver safer, more efficient, and cost-effective care is significant. For healthcare organizations of all types, the collection, analyses, and application of patient data can minimize avoidable service use, improve health outcomes, and promote patient independence, which can assuage swelling costs.

‘For their part, the “Big Four” tech companies — Google-parent Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft — see an opportunity to tap into the lucrative health market.

Source: Business Insider

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Tech companies are using medical and biology expertise, but also artificial intelligence, data, biotechnology…you name it in their quest to extend human life, and to dive into healthcare.

Best,

Selva Freigedo

Daily Wealth

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