What can blockchain do for increasing human longevity?
The nascent longevity industry focuses on the research and implementation of solutions and technologies to extend the lifespan of human beings — making people live healthier, longer lives.
Longevity is not yet considered an official medical term, and aging is not officially considered a disease but a natural occurrence in every living thing.
However, some biologists, researchers and practicing doctors believe this approach should change, and they are striving to discover the mechanisms of aging in humans. In doing so, they are creating age clocks by defining biomarkers for measuring biological age, exploring the best lifestyle habits and natural supplements, and inventing new drugs that could stop us from getting older.
Longevity has been on the radar of crypto leaders for some time already, which is not a surprise given that the industry promises to improve humankind through innovation. Indeed, one prominent event in the longevity industry, the Longevity Investors Conference, is organized by Marc P. Bernegger and Tobias Reichmuth, who were previously involved with the Crypto Finance Group.
Crypto meets longevity
At the most recent iteration of the Longevity Investors Conference in September 2022, speakers taking part in the “Crypto meets longevity” panel noted that both industries — crypto and longevity — are disruptive fields that challenge established norms.
“Everybody here in this room is, to a certain extent, a pioneer because we really come together in a phase where it’s similar to the internet, Bitcoin and other exciting industries,” said Bernegger, who is the founding partner at Maximon — an accelerator for longevity companies.
Aubrey de Grey, an English author and biomedical gerontologist, highlighted that the mindset of crypto and longevity innovators is very much alike, with both being “completely comfortable working in an area that is still very unorthodox and needs to be taken forward.”
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Ryan Pyle, founding partner at Maine Investments — a Zug-based company managing digital assets — said that the longevity industry reminds him of what crypto was like in 2013 and that while no one knows precisely where the industry will be in five to 10 years, the potential is very promising:
“So, I see the ecosystem being very exciting, and I think what Maximon is trying to do at this longevity conference is really early stage — like probably two or three years, maybe, too early, which is great. That’s where you want to be, right? You’d rather be too early than too late. A lot of crypto people have invested in this space just because they’re totally accepting of this level of risk.”
Bernegger also shared that because the longevity industry is at such an early stage, it’s currently a highly attractive period for investors to enter and that “similar to Bitcoin back then, it is less about the price but also about the underlying technology and potential.”
How blockchain can apply to longevity
On the application of blockchain technology itself, Bernegger is less optimistic, stating, “I think it’s difficult, then, to combine [blockchain] technology with another exciting field like longevity. […] From my side, personally, I think the biggest synergy is less in combining two technologies and really more the money.” On the potential in the investing and funding side of crypto, Bernegger added:
“I personally rather would focus on the funding side and less on the technology side, without neglecting that there are few exciting projects in the DeSci [decentralized science] space which definitely have huge potential. But I think it will take years to really see tangible products solving a real-world problem there.”
Bernegger also mentioned the compliance aspects of both industries, stating that regulators might be a burden to research and adoption not only due to their role to protect end customers but “to another extent also to protect the status quo.”
The longevity industry is still in a very nascent stage and has not seen many blockchain-related use cases yet. Nevertheless, knowing what kind of problems have already been solved with the help of blockchain technology allows some professionals to see potential applications.
Claire Cui, a self-described longevity enthusiast and blockchain adviser, mentioned decentralized data as one potential use case:
“What crypto has figured out is basically [the potential of] blockchain technology to cover some of the issues that people have today, like data privacy, data ownership. So, that’s where people are very curious about. And in health, it’s even more sensitive. Nobody wants to have his DNA in health records leaked somewhere because somebody hacks it.”
Data ownership also allows users to earn from sharing it with companies that use it for scientific research. Thus, regular users become part of the revenue chain.
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Another application of blockchain in the longevity industry is decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, and decentralized intellectual property. One existing example is a platform called VitaDAO, a DAO for community-governed and decentralized drug development that collectively funds and digitizes research in the form of nonfungible tokens representing IP. Christian Angermayer, founder of Apeiron Investment Group, said:
“I think one interesting part of blockchain technology could be that we sort of make sure that people can collaborate better but then also that literally everybody collaborates and gets a fair share in whatever comes out of it, both reputation-wise and, especially, also financially.”
The longevity industry seems to be an exciting area in which the crypto community can explore investment and use cases, particularly because, by its nature, it is reminiscent of blockchain’s early days. At the same time, many existing areas of blockchain adoption can be applied to the longevity industry to solve some of the problems it’s facing.