How Longevity Research is Being Disrupted by Crypto

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How Longevity Research is Being Disrupted by Crypto

Over the past few years, there’s been an increasingly significant overlap between two of the world’s most captivating industries: crypto and longevity.

Each industry stands on the fringes of innovation in its respective field, gathering excitement from around the world while attracting billions of dollars of investor capital.

The problem, however, is that seemingly no one understands why these two worlds are suddenly colliding.

At first glance, one may think that crypto – and all the components of blockchain technology – is only being used in the world of finance.

Similarly, one may think that longevity – and the burgeoning scientific breakthroughs related to human life extension – is just another biotech trend siloed away in the hands of Big Pharma.

But each of these common assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth.

Although perhaps seen as an ivory tower from each respective side, both industries complement each other quite well… and now, many crypto entrepreneurs (who have made incredible amounts of money over the past couple of years) have begun to get involved in the longevity ecosystem.

Crypto Wealth and Talent Comes to Longevity

The world of longevity has recently seen some notable funding commitments from individuals such as Peter Thiel, Larry Ellison, Jeff Bezos, Jim Mellon, and Larry Page.

Together, they have invested billions of dollars and founded companies such as Calico Labs, Juvenescence, Altos Labs, and Unity Biotechnology.

At the same time, there has been an influx of interest from the crypto community. In addition to thousands of crypto investors entering the longevity ecosystem, there have been notable events from crypto industry leaders. Here are several of them:

  • Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum, has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency to several longevity organizations. This includes at least $6 million to Impetus Grants, $2 million to the SENS Research Foundation, and an undisclosed lump sum to the Methuselah Foundation in the form of Dogelon Mars.
  • Brian Armstrong, founder, and CEO of Coinbase, recently announced the formation of the private company NewLimit. The company’s goal is to treat “age-related disease to extend human healthspan” and already has a war chest of over $100 million to get started.
  • Juan Benet, the founder of Protocol Labs, best known for creating Filecoin and the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), was a founding donor for Impetus Grants, which provides funding to longevity researchers. Other donors to Impetus include Vitalik Buterin – as mentioned above – Jed McCaleb (Ripple, Stellar), James Fickel (crypto investor), and others.
  • Hal Finney, who died in 2014 from ALS, had his body cryogenically preserved through the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. He is known as one of the earliest bitcoin adopters and is legendary within the coding and cryptography communities. Roger Ver, the founder of Bitcoin.com, has also signed up for this service.
  • Richard Heart is known as the founder of the HEX cryptocurrency. He also created the PulseChain crypto project, which raised $25 million that was donated to the SENS Research Foundation (SRF).

As shown in the fundraising above, the cross-over between crypto and longevity helps us shed light on an emerging and potentially revolutionary trend. Each industry, unknown to many, supplements the other.

For example, longevity research has given rise to yet another use case for crypto and blockchain technology beyond banking and finance. The open-source and decentralized world of crypto, on the other hand, has bridged an important gap that longevity and aging researchers have been unable to before.

In the following post, we will discuss how these crypto initiatives are changing longevity research and funding as we know it. But we’ll also break down each of the leading projects involved and how investors and researchers can take advantage of these opportunities today.

As you’ll soon discover, the new marriage between crypto and the scientific community – commonly known as the Decentralized Science (or, DeSci) movement – isn’t just disrupting the field of longevity. Instead, it stands a chance to drastically alter every scientific field of research.

The Problems Of Today

Before we can talk about DeSci, and its compounding effects on aging research and longevity, we must understand the problems within the scientific research industry that have led us here in the first place.

The Lack of Funding

Believe it or not, scientists spend most of their time writing grant requests and funding proposals instead of working on what’s more important for, well, everyone… scientific research.

The ability to receive funding for longevity research, however, is even more difficult than in most fields. It is arguably one of longevity’s greatest headwinds.

Larger institutions and drug companies, including the vast majority of today’s pharmaceutical giants, are hesitant to fund research and develop drugs specifically on aging. It’s not that they don’t see tremendous potential for anti-aging treatments, it’s more so because the regulators in the U.S. and Europe will only license medicine for specific diseases. In other words, regulators like the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), don’t make it easy for those seeking to develop treatments on something as general as aging.

As of today, the FDA doesn’t even view aging as a disease. As a result, many profit-hungry corporations are disincentivized to fund research efforts geared towards the development of anti-aging drugs.

Perhaps that’s another reason why we’ve seen a rise in longevity startups who have thus far not relied on Big Pharma, but rather billionaires, venture capitalists, and now the crypto community.

The Valley of Death

As explored above, there are two major areas of funding when it comes to biopharma research:

  1. No strings attached funding in the form of grants, as an example
  2. Profit-motivated funding from Big Pharma

The problem though is that in between these two areas of funding is a problem known as “The Valley of Death.” Here, the no-strings attached nature of research fails to take the next step in receiving the funding necessary to take a discovery to market. Although universities have proven themselves as a goldmine of intellectual property, unless a startup spins out of the research, it won’t receive investment dollars.

Notably though, when pharmaceutical companies decide to acquire research that is done in academia, it is in a sense acquiring research that was done from public capital, privatizing it, and either selling it back to the public or siloing it where it doesn’t continue to be researched.

Scientific Journals

Today, scientists share most of the research and knowledge to the public and scientific community by publishing articles and journals. The process is fairly simple; Put together a study, write it up as an article and submit it to an academic journal (who essentially pose as publishing companies). From there, the academic journals connect other scientists working in the same field to peer review the research.

The problem though is that it can take months, even years, for an article to go through the peer review process and be published.

Making matters worse, getting research published in an academic journal is a very competitive process. For context, according to a 2020 study, the scientific publishing market is dominated by five large publishing houses: Elsevier, Black & Wiley, Taylor & Francis, Springer Nature and SAGE. Together, they control more than 50% of the entire market. The industry as a whole, which relies on generating revenues through subscriptions, is also highly profitable with worldwide sales amounting to more than $19 billion.

As a result, scientists can often be pressured to publish not what’s necessarily the best for their respective scientific field, but rather research that can garner the most eyeballs for the publishing company. And as we all know, just because something has a great headline, doesn’t mean it’s filled with great content.

Information Sharing

As a consequence of the publishing process described above, research with negative results don’t often get published. According to a 2011 study, Negative results are disappearing from most disciplines and countries, by Daniele Fanelli, the percentage of studies, where the initial hypothesis was verified, grew by 22% between 1990 and 2007. Fanelli eventually found that published studies from academic journals were producing positive results 85% of the time – a figure that is clearly not a true reflection of scientific research.

Also, because these journals run on a subscription model, a vast amount of research and knowledge is essentially trapped behind paywalls, gated sites, and private databases.

This means that other scientists in different parts of the world have little to no access of these negative (or even positive) results, despite the fact that many of these studies are still scientifically relevant.

This can lead to billions of dollars (and time) being wasted every year on duplicated studies that were never originally exposed to the public.

Not pretty, right?

Enter Decentralized Science (DeSci)

Until today, there has been minimal efforts to change these scientific discovery bottlenecks, aside from the Open Access movement and journals adjusting their subscription model.

Rather than charging readers like you and I for access to the publication, some are now charging the scientists – to the tune of thousands of dollars – in order to get the articles published on their platform.

Regardless of these efforts, there’s nothing that has the potential to disrupt this industry more than the DeSci movement.

What is DeSci?

Now, because it’s so new, there has yet to be a definitive answer or perfect explanation of what DeSci actually is or what the movement is trying to achieve. But to help sum it up, DeSci is the idea that, instead of a science ecosystem relying on centralized bodies for research and funding, funding for research can be crowdfunded and decentralized in terms of ownership.

Furthermore, the open-source nature of DeSci can lead to the sharing of more research and study results (both positive and negative). With a more collaborative ecosystem, experts believe DeSci could help speed up the rate of discovery in every scientific field including longevity

Basically, DeSci aims to do the following:

  1. Free research data from behind paywalls
  2. Eliminate reliance on middlemen like publishing giants
  3. To make collaboration easier
  4. To change how science is funded

While we’re still in the early innings of DeSci, the screenshot below proves that it’s no longer just a concept. There are companies and organizations already embracing the world of DeSci with extensive communities and collaborative efforts to fight against today’s industry barriers.

DeSci Companies

Via Ultrarare.bio

As the DeSci ecosystem continues to grow on a daily basis, keeping track of all the activities is nearly impossible. However, there have been some groups that have had significant traction, especially in the world of longevity.

Although most DeSci projects are not specifically targeting longevity, there are many that could become valuable when it comes to understanding and treating human aging.

Below, we have outlined (in no specific order) the most interesting crypto organizations that could disrupt the world of longevity.

Before we get started, it’s worth quickly understanding what a few key terms are. We won’t get too technical, so if you want to learn more we provide links below to dig deeper.

What is a DAO? A Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) is a new format for an organization that came about with the creation of blockchain and crypto. It allows a group of people to come together to make decisions (for example: purchasing assets, making investments, giving donations) without a central authorities such as a board or an executive making independent decisions. Rather, decisions are made through the use of governance tokens which members buy from the DAO. The more tokens one has, the more votes they contribute towards proposals. Learn more here.

What is an IPNFT? The IPNFT is a new ​​Non Fungible Token (NFT) standard that was developed by Molecule (explored below) that unlocks intellectual property (IP) in new, never before seen ways. The IPNFT allows for early-stage biopharma assets to be “attached” to NFTs. By placing IP data on an NFT (i.e. on-chain) it allows it to be plugged into the broader crypto-based ecosystem resulting in simpler financing, liquidity, and transparency. Learn more here.

A Sampling of the DeSci Landscape

Although the DeSci landscape is transforming daily — with new entrants, concepts, and practices emerging — below is a sampling of DeSci organizations with a focus on those interested in aging and longevity. 

Molecule

Molecule is building a web3 marketplace to document, collaborate, fund, and transact early stage biopharma research. Molecule has a goal of creating an open ecosystem for collaborative drug development and research-related IP. Their platform connects academics and biotech companies with quick and easy funding to bring liquidity to early stage IP, while enabling patient, researcher, and investor communities to directly govern and own research-related IP.

They offer fractional ownership in pharmaceutical IP, via NFTs, in exchange for preclinical or clinical development work, as well as funding. The companies aim to make drug development more democratic, collaborative, and efficient in the interest of bringing higher-quality therapeutics to patients faster.

Recently, they had success working with VitaDAO to fund various IP projects (see more below).

Can you buy tokens or invest?
Molecule currently doesn’t have a token, but has taken funding from private investors in the past.

Who is the team behind Molecule?
The Molecule team has a lot of overlap with the VitaDAO team, including Tyler Golato, Paul Kohlhaas, and Vincent Weisser.

VitaDAO

VitaDAO is a DAO with a mission to accelerate R&D in the longevity industry and the extension of human life and healthspan. To achieve this, VitaDAO collectively funds, develops and digitizes a portfolio of assets in the form of IPNFTs.

Vetted longevity research projects will request funds from VitaDAO, and token holders will vote to grant those funds in exchange for ownership in the resulting IP. VitaDAO targets early-stage and pre-patent longevity related projects.

As of today, VitaDAO has over 1,000 token holders and funded over $2.5M in research through investments.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
Yes. Anyone can join VitaDAO and help support and finance new therapeutics and research data in the longevity space through VITA tokens by investing, working, or providing valuable research data or IP assets. VITA tokens enable the holder to vote on specific initiatives, investment proposals and govern its data repositories and IP portfolio.

Currently VITA tokens can only be purchased with another cryptocurrency on decentralized exchanges. To buy VitaDAO, you’ll need to first purchase Ethereum (ETH) and then use ETH to buy VitaDAO. And to do that, you need a self-custody wallet, like MetaMask, which will allow you to swap the ETH for VITA on an exchange like Uniswap.

Who is the team behind VitaDAO?
VitaDAO was founded by Tyler Golato who’s also a co-founder of Molecule, biochemist and molecular biologist focused on experimental therapeutics and aging. VitaDAO’s core team also include several other team members such as Paul Kohlhaas (also a co-founder of Molecule), Vincent Weisser (dex.blue co-founder), Tim Peterson (Professor and co-founder of Healthspan Technologies and BIOIO) and Niklas Rindtorff (Physician Scientist at the German Cancer Research Center, Co-founder of labDAO)

Recently, VitaDAO, Molecule and the University of Copenhagen collaborated on the first ever transfer of IP ownership in medical research via NFTs.

CureDAO

CureDAO is focused on exploring how various factors, such as food, medicine and supplements impact human health. It is a collaborative platform focused on unlocking data in order to improve human health by accelerating and reducing the cost of clinical discovery. As a community-owned digital health platform, the DAO incentivizes members, by rewarding tokens, to share data and rewards collaboration.

CureDAO will overcome the traditional barriers of data sharing by utilizing NFTs to share data and IP contributions on the platform. Using NFTs, the platform will be able to track and compensate IP contributors with royalties.

So far CureDAO has gathered over 12 million data points, 90,000 studies and 10,000 study participants.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
As of today, CureDAO’s token $GCURES isn’t available for purchase, but is awarded for the completion of quests and experiments that advance the CureDAO mission. Tokens give holders control over CureDAO and how it allocates its resources.

Who is the team behind CureDAO?
In addition to the hundreds of partners and DAO collaborators, CureDAO’s core team includes Vincenzo Domina (CTO & Co-founder at OpenCures.org) and Mike Sinn (Software engineer and Data scientist at QuantiModo).

Longevity DAO (Moon Rabbit)

Moon Rabbit is a distributed crypto-conglomerate and the world’s first Metachain that unites all distributed ledgers and cryptocurrencies in the ultimate cross-chain protocol. Its Mother Chain is powered by Temples, which is able to secure and validate multiple jurisdictions, allowing unique specialization and enhanced scalability.

The eco-friendly Distributed Proof of Stake model uses game-theoretic models of financial security, rewards, and punishments. This helps protect both the Mother Chain individual jurisdictions.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
You cannot buy Moon Rabbit AAA Coin directly with cash. You can go to one of their supporting exchanges listed on their website and purchase the coin through those exchanges.

Who is the team behind Moon Rabbit?
Moon Rabbit was founded by Angel Versetti (co-founder of Ambrosus)

ResearchHub DAO

ResearchHub DAO is on a mission to build a community of people that can collaborate on scientific research in a more efficient way to accelerate the pace of scientific research. All of the content is accessible to anyone and everyone. With traditional academic research typically being secluded, ResearchHub brings together academic and non-academics alike to interact in a public and collaborative way for advancement.

ResearchHub provides incentives and rewards for participating behavior on the platform through ResearchCoin. ResearchCoin is also linked to reputation on the platform. Reputation is measured as a user’s lifetime earnings of ResearchCoin minus erosion due to downvotes. Reputation is linked to certain privileges in the app, as well as a mechanism for moderation within the community.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
ResearchCoin (RSC) is a digital token you can earn by contributing content to ResearchHub. Anyone can earn by sharing, curating, and discussing academic science within ResearchHub.The number of RSC earned for any given action is proportional to how valuable the community perceives that action to be.

Who is the team behind ResearchHub DAO?
ResearchHub was founded by Patrick Joyce and Brian Armstrong (Coinbase, NewLimit)

BioDAO

BioDAO is a DAO community focused on funding biotech startups and drug discovery. They aim to fund 25-30 new therapies per year for the next 5 years while also eliminating $100B+ of deadweight loss to society as a result of the “valley of death”.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
Active contributors and members of BioDAO, who are part of the working groups or execute proposals, can earn and receive a reward of digital token $BIO for their contributions.

Who is the team behind BioDAO?
BioDAO was founded by Richard LeBlanc.

LabDAO

LabDAO is currently in pre-launch, but has made significant progress with their outlines and details of how the project will work. LabDAO’s mission is to build open tools that are globally accessible to accelerate progress in life sciences.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
At this time, you cannot buy or receive tokens, however they are accepting new members to the project who will likely get early access.

Who is the team behind LabDAO?
Unknown

PsyDAO

PsyDAO is a DAO focused on funding research targeted at mental health with the use of psychedelics. Similarly to VitaDAO, PsyDAO is a part of the Molecule DAO ecosystem.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
Currently, PsyDAO is prelaunch, but we would expect the ability to buy tokens soon.

Who is the team behind PsyDAO?
PsyDAO shares leadership with the Molecule team.

Crowd Funded Cures (CFC DAO)

Crowd Funded Cures is a company with an initiative to incentivize clinical trials for off-patent therapies. Because off-patent treatments have no potential for monopolization, large clinical trials are ignored. Crowd Funded Cures aims to incentivize research through Social Impact Bonds that are backed by healthcare payers.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
Crowd Funded Cures is currently in the process of working on CFC DAO in partnership with VitaDAO, Molecule, and Open Source Pharma Foundation.

Who is the team behind Crowd Funded Cures?
CFC was founded by Savva Kerdemelidis, a Commercial/IP Consultant Legal Counsel and a NZ and Australian Patent and Trademark Attorney.

Beaker DAO

Beaker DAO is focused on funding independent research along with acquiring and managing IP. The goal is to provide liquidity to the market. There will be 99 initial members of the DAO, who can purchase 100,000 Beaker DAO units for 5 ETH.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
You can currently buy tokens here.

Who is the team behind Beaker DAO?
Unknown

The Science DAO

The Science DAO aims to build a complete DAO for science by building a decentralized incubator engine, think tank, and accelerator platform. The DAO is targeting multiple focuses within health and environment, computing and technology, and natural science.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
Yes, you can currently buy their token ($THRY) here.

Who is the team behind Science DAO?
The Science DAO has a large advisory board and is led by Joey Poareo (CEO), Anthony Vo (CFO), Daniel Register (COO), and “Z” (CTO).

GenomesDAO

GenomesDAO is building a secure DNA sequencing, storage and sharing technology using state-of-the-art encryption and blockchain technologies to provide DAO members with control over their whole genome sequence.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
You buy tokens, known as $GENE, but in order to become a member of the DAO, you need to purchase the governance token $GNOME. Both can be bought here.

Who is the team behind GenomesDAO?
GenomesDAO was co-founded by Dr Mark Hahnel and Aldo de Pape in 2018, in the UK.

Cherubs DAO

The Cherubs DAO is a DAO with a mission to invest in solutions and research supporting brain wellness. Each day, new Cherub NFTs (Cherubs) are created and auctioned to the highest bidder. Cherub sale proceeds fund the Cherubs DAO treasury.

Owning a Cherub gives you voting rights with the ability to propose new brain wellness investment & grant opportunities, and decide on the future of the Cherubs DAO.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
Yes, you can buy Cherubs by participating in their daily auctions on their website.

Who is the team behind Cherubs DAO?
Cherubs DAO was founded by Brian Magierski.

Transhuman Coin

The Transhuman Coin is a cryptocurrency dedicated to funding R&D that enhance human life and is focused on changing the existing charity environment using cryptocurrencies.

Transhuman Coin donates money to research and projects by generating fees from token transactions while their investors are rewarded regularly for helping to solve human problems. Initially a 2% fee is applied to all token trading transactions, which is redistributed to all holders and the Transhuman Fund Wallet for donations.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
Yes, you can purchase Transhuman Coin (THC) by swapping from one of your current cryptocurrency holdings on a decentralized exchange.

Who is the team behind Transhuman Coin?
Transhuman’s co-founders are Dr. Charles Awuzie (tech entrepreneur, Blockchain developer and biotech investor) and Peter Xing (Digital & Data Solutions Lead at KPMG).

OpenNMN

OpenNMN makes the supplement NMN accessible through a community based decentralized biotech DAO.

Can you buy tokens or invest?
Yes, you can purchase the $NMN token, which after purchasing allows holders to vote on treasury usage, submit proposals, and stake for varying levels of access to the DAO.

Who is the team behind OpenNMN?
Unknown

How You Can Take Action Today

The amazing thing about the DeSci movement is that it allows individuals from any background to get involved. It allows:

  • Researchers to receive funding in novel ways such as through the Molecule platform.
  • Investors to gain access to an asset class that was previously unavailable by buying tokens of DAOs they would like to support.
  • Enthusiasts to contribute to areas of science that they are passionate about while receiving rewards in the form of tokens.

All of the above exist with the hope of researching and developing potential treatments and therapies.

An Evolving Future

DeSci is clearly an industry still in its infancy, with many evolutions to come. Molecule, for example, was only launched in 2018 and only raised its first round of funding on June 13, 2022.

DeSci certainly helps clear the early-stage bottlenecks that have for the longest time made it difficult for anyone, including the experts, to adequately perform the scientific process. But it’s worth mentioning that DeSci is only helping the scientific community and more specifically longevity research to a limit. As we have previously discussed at spannr, there are serious technical, regulatory, economic and social hurdles that the industry needs to overcome.

Regardless, the biopharmaceutical space is ripe for disruption and those willing to spend the time and effort to learn about a new and emerging area at the intersection of science and crypto may reap the rewards while also helping humanity.