ALLSET: Asia Longevity Tech Investing ft Jeremy Au

· Press,VC and Angels,Southeast Asia

Jeremy Au and Jing Zhi Chua delved into longevity technology and explored the deep-rooted human desire for wealth and health. Jeremy highlighted the shift in focus from accumulating wealth to preserving health as individuals age, recognizing the inherent human fear of mortality and the pursuit of longevity as a means to combat this fear. He discusses historical and contemporary efforts to extend life, emphasizing the role of scientific validation in distinguishing modern longevity tech from past endeavors. They also touched on the geographical concentration of longevity research, primarily in the West, and the potential for global distribution of health benefits through exercise, diet, and sleep without pharmacological intervention. He shared personal anecdotes to illustrate the practical application of longevity techniques, emphasizing the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle and the challenges of aging.

Check out the podcast here and the transcript below.

(00:00) Jing Zhi Chua:

Hi guys, welcome to another episode of Health vs Wealth. Today's episode is on longevity tech and I have with me Jeremy Au. This is actually a continued conversation from our previous episode where we talked about plant based protein and alternative foods. If you'd like to know the latest trends in that scene, feel free to check out the previous episode.

Coming back to today's topic, To start things off, I asked Jeremy, an investor who I've bumped into in multiple longevity events now, about how he views the longevity tech scene and what interests him. This is what he has to say.

(00:32) Jeremy Au:

Longevity is interesting because it taps into some very deep human impulses.

From my perspective, there are two strong forces for humans in terms of motivations. One is get rich. The second is don't die. When we're all young, we all want to get wealthier. We want to accumulate more resources, get more power, get more influence. I think it's a natural part of striving because, you know, people who are young and teenagers and 20s and 30s want to become significant and do something important in their lives.

What's interesting is that for many people who have already achieved that threshold, once they hit a certain level of, you know, financial security and prosperity, and as they hit their forties and fifties and sixties, and they see their parents past week. They see some of their friends pass away they feel themselves getting injured or they themselves, you know, suffer something chronic or impending critical disease.

Then I think the self awareness of mortality kicks in and that's where people really focus on preventative health and wellness to get better and stronger. It's a tale as old as time. You know, we have the famous explorers looking for the eternal fountain of, you know, Eternal youth, eternal founder of eternal youth.

But the truth is this idea of a longevity, you know, escape pod has been around for a long time. Right. And you know, you know, for those who know Chinese history, I mean, Qin Shi Huang is, you know, the first emperor of China who kind of unified and so forth he created the Qing dynasty and he united the whole country and he won, in other words, he got rich in that sense.

And then once he got that, then he started trying to live forever, right? And so he calls alchemists and doctors to help ask him how to live forever. You know, he drank a lot of mercury because he thought that was going to help him you know, live longer. It turns out he didn't. And so he passed away early and then, you know, his son was underprepared and, you know, they lost the whole dynasty as a result of it.

Right. So, you know, if this guy, you know, thousands of years ago, really wanted to live forever, Well, guess what, you know, like if you go through history, every King, every person always wanted to live long for, for longer. And even today, if you look at so many billionaires you look at the way they're framing it up, a lot of them have invested in longevity companies because, you know, they're interested in it.

What else is going to do with the money, make more money when you hit that threshold where there's drastically diminishing marginal utility where every dollar they earn. So I think there's an interesting dynamic where, you know, I think in a people treat health for wealth. And then when they're older, they're like, okay, we're trading wealth back to health.

And so there's an interesting conversion process that's happening. And so I think longevity taps into that promise, you know, of a longer life. You know, and that's very different, right? Because you told me sanitation, sanitation also improves the life span of the general population. Right. And so, so many great doctors and epidemiologists and nurses and public panelists and civil servants built sewage.

You know, to increase the sanitation health and therefore reduce the burden of, you know, fecal borne diseases, right. And improves the living conditions for our cities. You know, it's a tremendous longevity, you know, innovation, but we don't look at it that way because we look at them as a sanitation and infrastructure, you know, perspective.

And what's interesting about longevity is moving away from infrastructural healthcare and sanitation. So, so forth. Into more of a personal aspect, right? We're just, you know, it's not about the country of America. It's not about the city of Singapore. It's not about the neighborhood, you know, in, you know, where whichever city that you're in, but, you know, it kind of boils out to, you know, this is what we can do for you individually.

And this is what, importantly, this is what the sign says and not some random alchemist saying it, right? And so I think the idea of statistical validity and proof in a scientifically rigorous way, I think is the second half of it. So I think it's interesting because you're combining something that's very old, which is that people don't want to die.

Doesn't mean they want to live longer. Doesn't mean they want to live healthier, especially when there's a trade off against things they like, like eating char siu, or smoking cigarettes, you know, driving without a seatbelt, right? These are all fun things to do. So it doesn't mean they're going to want to live longer, but people don't want to die.

You know? So I think there's interesting psychological reality there that we have to be aware about. So that's one aside, but there's a very old motivation as old as time itself, but combine something very new, which is the promise that this time around is for real. And I mean, if you think about it, you know, like if you open up every magazine for the past 200 years, They've always promised some random Longevity molecule or product, right?

You know, you had 200 years ago You have people traveling around towns and the little wagons and they're promising elixirs from their apothecaries Saying like this is going to help you live longer life, right? You know, you know, coca cola used to be a health drink All right, you know not a soft drink, right?

You know, I mean and just happen to taste delicious at the same time So you're like, oh guys improving my health. It tastes delicious because here's a bit of cocaine and And then, you know, you fast forward now to today, like what I'm trying to say here is like, it's a tale as old as time, but now I think we're starting to see the scientific validity of it.

And so I think that's where the longevity space is coming together.

(06:06) Jing Zhi Chua:

Most of the science and most of the work in longevity tech is done in the West. So in the next question, I asked Jeremy how he sees this trend play out in the years ahead.

(06:15) Jeremy Au:

When we look at longevity, obviously there's a pyramid, you know, there's often interventions, right?

You know, the awkward reality is that. You know, exercise is probably the best, you know, intervention that people could do. Increasing your VO2 max, you know, it's like, you know, you, you know, you look at the scale of interventions of all, all the way from exercise to diet to sleep, which is I think a big three to do, which doesn't require any, you know, pharmacological intervention really.

Although I think a lot of people struggle with it. And then all the way to the other hand of the scale, which is, I think, a scientific discovery about what goes into aging. There's one side and the other side, what interventions on a drug slash, you know, operational perspective to increase longevity. And I think what we have to be aware about is that there are geographic clusters to innovation.

So, you know, when I had mentioned, you know, cars and the manufacturing of cars, Very few people would be like. Boo, Jeremy, you mentioned Germany, Japan, and Detroit, right? I mean, like everyone's gonna be like, yeah, that makes sense. Like that's where all the manufacturing is. We don't see any car manufacturing really in Singapore and, or Indonesia or Thailand or Philippines.

There's some in Malaysia. So there is obviously, you know, an understanding that there is clusters of innovation and it's very obvious in manufacturing, for example. Solar cells is pretty obvious, you know, it's primarily being done. I know right now. So when we look at longevity, we're fundamentally looking at the state of human research into aging and the inhibition into it.

And the reality is that most of that research globally is being done out of the U. S. Specifically, especially in Boston as a cluster. And to a lesser extent, San Francisco. Cool. And New York and Atlanta. And so if you look at that dynamic, you know, we can ask ourselves like, why is this happening?

Right? Well, first of all, you know, America is a rich country. And it was one of the first few to really create that systematic structure, not only of doctors, but also of clinician researchers, right? So that duality and combination of doctors who are also doing the research at the same time. And that's not the same medical system that's around the world.

I think that many. Medical systems around the world is very focused on clinicians because they're focused on provision of healthcare. There's a priority of especially urgent needs, but not necessarily the research side because that's, you know, as you can imagine, you know, detracts from the clinician work, especially when your population has urgent healthcare needs.

Like we talked about it, cholera, sanitation basic health requirements. You know, the second piece is that, you know, the U S has a very strong concentration of universities. There are hubs for research and development and have large government grants and subsidies and programs that support these pathways.

So for example, we look at the genome of human people and that was first, you know, kind of like the sequence, right? In full, especially thanks to the help of the US government to sequence on just the genome, also later on to sequence cancer cells. And so a lot of that funding is actually flowing into basic science via the US government system.

The third aspect is that there is a strong, you know, patent system in the US and they have the ability to not only patent, you know, various inventions, but also patent drugs. And these drugs are obviously you can see Pfizer. We saw that with Moderna. We saw that in the COVID vaccine time. The ability for the U S to not only be able to bring the base guarantee into something that's a viable target, that eventually make it into rigorous testing to actual deployment.

And as you can imagine along the way, you need to have FDA approval where globally regulators are looking at them for guidance and to set precedence on the regulatory approval side. Also, America has. The scale up facilities, right, on the, not just in house for manufacturing facilities for the big drug manufacturers, but also a lot of contract manufacturing plants for newer drug candidates.

And so that expertise is not just, imagine, you know, clinical researchers, but you can imagine all kinds of engineers and statisticians and modelers and, you know, folks just figuring stuff out together. And that's hard to, therefore, to. You know, reinvent that flywheel, let alone port it to Asia, right? Because you need critical mass of talent and population and government support to make it happen.

And so what that means in the U S is. You know, you have a lot of basic R& D, you have lots of clinician researchers who are doing a lot of research and doing advocacy and seeing patients and, and you see a lot of startups who have their future economic pipeline protected, right? And the U. S.

patent system is able to not only protect them within the U. S., but also protect them globally, right? And that's very different for example, because if you look at India, India doesn't have the strong drug patent because they made a decision that you want to allow generics and generics are important because they're able to take globally the drugs and distribute them at a much cheaper price because you're no longer giving them the legally allowed monopoly that the US or the West or the rest of the world will do to compensate the drug manufacturer for taking on 10, 20, 30 years of basic R& D at risk, right?

You know, you're not going to give that ability to pay that back because now you're charging it effectively at cost price or plus a small percentage. The consequence of course, is that India benefits from cheap drugs. And so healthcare is able to be cheaper for us population. The trade off is that, you know, the R and D into novel patented, table drug molecules and candidates like biologics is not being done in India.

It's being done in the U S again, because. They know that's going to be protected, right? And so they want to in house that talent and they don't want that to be copied, right? And not given them the ability to earn, you know, super normal profit for X period of time to compensate them for the super normal risk they've taken on.

So those things means that the U. S. and to some extent, I wouldn't say the U. S., but the West in that sense, because the U. S. is working in the University of Cambridge, UK, you know, is doing. You know, you know, clinical trials in Puerto Rico, like, you know, the concept of that you know, do research, write in English, peer reviewed in scientific journals, people replicate each other's experiments, global apparatus, the center of gravity from a pharmacological and health perspective.

It's in the U S right now. And so if you look at it, not just in terms of longevity, but you look at it in terms of like Alzheimer's research, you know, cancer research, all these like acute diseases, a lot of that is a lot of that fundamental research is being done out in the U S. Now, when we look at Asia, I think what's interesting is that I think the demand is there, right?

So, you know, Asian people don't want to die just as much as American does. Right. You know, all human, we all don't want to die. You told me tomorrow, you know, there's going to be a car crash. I'll be like, okay, I'm definitely wearing my, you know, seatbelt. And, you know, maybe I'll wear three seatbelts today to make sure that, you know, you know, I don't, you know, get hit by a car tomorrow.

So that's going to happen. But like you said, the supply of those innovations for now and in the foreseeable future is going to be. I wouldn't necessarily say American, but very much, I think, have very strong links to places with fundamental research, which happens to be in the West right now. I think where that changes, and I think what we see is that there are two parts.

One is I think we're starting to see one research and manufacturing being done in both India and China. So India, of course, they have generics, but along the way, they've of course built a very strong drug manufacturing set of team, right? And so people are doing innovations and with R& D in their own way, even though they don't have the same profit incentive as they would in America.

And I think in China, obviously, they're also doing their own set of research, especially on their own population health as well. So I think everybody's really focused on population health. And so that all that's happening. I think, like I said, the R& D is not easy, but it's only the first step of a very long set of ways.

So eventually get something all the way from. R& D are the way to commercialization to actually scale. That being said, you know, people exercising more, sleeping better, and eating healthier should be a global phenomenon. There's no patented your proprietary way to do those things. And so, you know, no matter where you are in the world, I hope that you do those three things, for example, because it's gonna be honestly not just 80 20, but you know, it's probably like 95%, 5 percent of, you know, the entire longevity outcomes in terms of potential improvement.

(15:22) Jing Zhi Chua:

Having commented about the overall landscape, I asked Jeremy, what are some companies or personalities that are perhaps worth highlighting?

(15:29) Jeremy Au:

I had the opportunity to meet Brian Johnson. He's from Singapore to share about Blueprint. And, you know, that was interesting because, you know, you had consumed some content about how he is.

Not just, you know, advocating for better health, but he himself is the guinea pig for a lot of these experiments. So in terms of like calorie restriction to injections to, you know, light therapy slash treatment to, you know, gene editing. And so he has a very strong public image on one side and on the other side, frankly, there was an interesting experience where I got to meet him in person to see what he was like in person to separate from his.

You know what is showing on the media, right? What was interesting was that I think there was a very strong I think realization from my perspective that he understood how people buy and what I mean by that is, you know, I think people can just talk theoretically about longevity all the time But you know, I think he's kind of saying like, you know, I practice what I preach.

All right I'm doing this i'm documenting this and so I think You know, it's a very human thing, right? Which is that humans buy from other humans, right? And I think I always say like, wow, when you say that Jeremy, like, duh, like, you know, humans buy from other humans, but you know, especially I think for wellness, especially for health, like this stuff was like, you look at somebody and a person is like super unhealthy and you're like, you know, I mean, it happens a lot, right?

Actually for, you know, the medical system that many doctors who are very, very unhealthy because they're very stressed, not sleeping well, you know, you know, and because of that, they're eating a lot at the core of the stress. And so they're very unhealthy and then, you know, guess what? People don't really feel comfortable taking medical advice from them because they don't look healthy.

Right. Again, you know, it's because the medical system is very pressurizing. So, you know, it's a structural environment dynamic, but, you know, I think patients are, you know, you know, they have eyes and they're humans. And they had their sense. And so I think what's interesting is that I think the reason why Brian Johnson is able to, I think, create that sense of trust is because, you know, he's willing to do it, right?

And, and the truth is the moment you kind of like stick out, then, you know, people love you and people hate you, right? the Paul Oppie Cutting Syndrome, right? Where it's just, Hey, you know, and I always tell people, it's like, yeah, you know, he's doing it for himself. Like, so be it. Right. I think we also see, I think other folks like Peter Atiyah With Outliv, we see you know, Huberman with Huberman Labs podcast.

So I think there's a lot of folks who are talking about longevity and speaking and being role models in their own way. Right. So I was watching like a YouTube shot recently and, you know, Peter here was like, you know, on his, you know, cycling bike and he was recording on his phone. It's like, this is what zone two exercise looks like.

You know, I'm, I can speak, but I'm kind of like, you know, gasping a little bit. And then I was like, Hey, you know, what? You know, I mean, at some level, what's different from him and every other fitness YouTube channel that I've seen, right? You know, there's a lot of fitness folks, you know, ranging from people wearing yoga pants to people who are super bulked out, you know, to everything in between and YouTube is full of fitness channels for that reason.

But I think what's interesting is that, you know, you have doctors now who add that credibility, right? And whether they are a PhD or a clinician to be a professor, you know, but, you know, I think that's it. In print, I think of a university and the scientific research and a peer review that's implicitly behind that on one side.

So as a result, I think they have legal consequences in some ways to say what they're saying, as long as they are scientifically credible. So I think that creates some level of flaw of trust on one side. And the other side, I think these doctor influencers are practicing what they're preaching, right?

In that sense. So they're demonstrating it, they're explaining it they're framing it up nice to yin. I think that's an interesting dynamic where all the startups that you see are all very human influencers, right? So you see Brian Johnson you see Brad Stanfield, right? You know, you see again, Huberman, you see Peter Askew you even see Sinclair as well, to some extent.

Sinclair is interestingly, you know, the pioneer of this field, but it's probably the most low key out of all of them. So there's an interesting dynamic there, even though he did write as well. So I think that's interesting for reflection.

(20:01) Jing Zhi Chua:

To round off the conversations, since we're at the start of a year, I asked Jeremy if there's any longevity routine that he's experimenting with or adopting this year.

(20:10) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. I mean, I think what's interesting is that, you know, when we kind of like flashback to, you know, four years ago, right, you know, I was like medically because again, I was drinking a lot of Soylent. I was very stressed. I was a founder. I wasn't sleeping. And then, you know, I had no friends. And so, you know, you know, and, you know, on my podcast, I actually recently released a podcast episode talking about some of the mistakes I made.

But one interesting realization I had was that, you know, at the end of this, you know, the founder journey, where I sold the company, I did the blood test. It turns out that I had like, you know, very low vitamin D, right? I was deficient in it. And I had prehypertension, I was pre diabetic, I was obviously, I said, obese not overweight, but obese.

And it was all these like issues I had on one hand, right? And then what was interesting was that over the past few years, I've slowly kind of like transitioned. I've become healthier over time. And I think last year I was quite proud of myself because my last year's resolution was exercise twice a week.

And the way I did it was by engaging a to come in, in the morning and Come to my place and then we'll just work out, you know, and I crack it in the morning and just do it. I was like, great. And, you know, I also went back for my army reservist training and, you know, I did well, like, you know, I was like, I hadn't done my, you know, pushup test, sit up test or 2.

4 kilometer, hadn't run the 2. 4 kilometers effectively. Oof. Well, time flies. For effectively 15 years. Right. So I remember I was like running around the track, you can imagine, right. Running by 2. 4 kilometers. And I was just like, wow, okay. I know and remember how I used to run this, which is like, you know, eight minutes, you know, and I know how I'm running this now, which is closer to 12 minutes, which is still good actually.

But it was just like, whoa, like you can feel that difference, especially because you haven't run it for a long time. And so I'm proud of myself that I was able to kind of like, turn my life around in terms of weight, but also finally last year's cheer, like a regular weightlifting routine on top of my previous, you know, you know, kind of like walking routines.

I think for this coming year, I think that two things I'm really doing, I think, first of all one, my new year resolution is to do an hour every day for something that's longevity related. So the switch is quite interesting. You know, historically, you know, I used exercise to lose weight and once I got to a weight that looked socially acceptable, I was like, good enough.

Right? Because you know, when you are like young and dating, you want, you know, skinny enough and muscular and a for dating purposes. Then once you become a, you know, a dad and you are your thirties, socially acceptable, just like good, you know, you're like, not of all with weight, you're just chill and you can be skinny fat effectively, and you know there's good enough in Singapore, right?

So I think it's been interesting now to be like, yeah, I want to structure that one hour every day, just be like, I did doing like zone two cardio or, you know, high intensity training or kind of like doing a workout and then, you know, having one rest in a week. So, so far in the month of January, I've been on track with that, which is you know, kind of like doing something and part of that as well is doing a sauna, so supposedly the sauna is good for you because of all the Nordic countries.

So I've been trying to do the sauna slash cold shower thing once a week. I don't know. I feel like this is like, you know, sometimes you always kind of scratch your head a little bit because you're like, I hope this works because, you know, if in five years time, the scientific religion from the future changes his mind, I'll be like, wait, I spent five years, you know, once a week going to the sauna and then, you know, suffering and abusing myself in a cold.

So let's see how that shapes up, but you know, definitely invigorating everywhere to start the morning. So I think there's been an interesting change. So I think that's one set. I think the second aspect about it is in terms of longevity as well, is being more in tune with the fact that I'm an older person.

So over the past year, when I was scaling out my fitness levels, I actually injured myself twice, especially before the army fitness test. So one was I managed to, I guess, pull my neck when I was doing sit ups. And then secondly, I managed to get some level of heel pain. After scaling up for my running, right.

And I think part of it was just like, fundamentally, like, I'm older now. My muscles are more stiff. I'm less fit. I was starting from a lower base. And so working my way up, you know, this long story short was now I need to be much more thoughtful. I need to like stretch a lot more. I need to do dynamic and static stretches.

Jewelry's still out, which is why it's worth it and then, yeah, I just need to kind of like be more gradual in how I ramp up and be a lot more thoughtful, so You know, recently I was just like, you know, thinking about, you know, hiking a hill and normally I would carry a backpack and I was like, you know what?

I'm going to do my extra work. I'm going to like stash my bag away in a car and just walk up without anything, because I know that if I do it, I'm at risk of like increasing my risk, right? For my heel pain. So I think there's an interesting self awareness on my aging dynamic. Which honestly isn't fun because, you know, yeah, because, you know, you're like, ah, I could do this, you know, I could cycle the lecture Singapore and, you know, you know, so it's like, like intellectually, you know, you can do it.

And then the other part of me is like, ah, I got to be a lot more pragmatic and practical about this. Otherwise, you know, the truth is, yeah, you know, like, the moment I got my heel pain, I was out of action for two months, you know, it took me two months to heal. And then I had to figure out how to improve my cardio and do my core workouts without engaging those muscles, which you can imagine is quite difficult, right?

So instead of doing sit ups, you're doing crunches and planks because you're trying to avoid using your neck muscles. And then to do cardio, you have to start cycling and using elliptical to avoid aggravating your heel. And then you only really do a run like once as a warmup, and then you do your 2. 4 kilometer run as the actual run.

So you build up your VO2 max using everything else that's low impact, but you keep your only impact activity. And the only thing I should try to say is like, I spent a lot of time, my personal trainer, strategizing around my injuries to not injure myself again. And now I'm just like, you know what? I just need to stop injuring myself so that I don't have to go into all the work of strategizing around my injuries.

(26:32) Jing Zhi Chua:

Now as Jeremy has alluded to, it's indeed harder and harder for you to take care of your own health as you get older. So pardon me as an entrepreneur doing a little sales pitch here, I've just launched my own Sports and Healthy Aging Lab. We help you find out your key metrics related to sports and ageing.

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If you are interested to find out more, please feel free to check it out. Links in the description of this video. That's all for now. Till next time, take care.