Cleopatra bathed in donkey milk. Mary Queen of Scots bathed in white wine. The Tang dynasty ruler and sole female emperor of China, Wu Zetian, made her own facial cleanser from an ancient herb called motherwort.
The quest for the anti-aging Holy Grail not only persists but is getting more persistent. Orbis Research valued the Global Anti-Aging Market at $250 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $331.41 billion by 2021.
More than skin deep
It would seem that cosmetics are merely the icing on the cake. The August 2018 Citi report “Disruptive Innovations VI” indicates that “…rapid scientific progress could spawn FDA-approved therapeutics potentially in the next decade, with the primary goal of keeping us younger and alive for longer.”
Forget about wrinkles, we’re talking about preserving the youth of your joints, muscular tissue, bone density and brain, deep down at the cellular level.
“These companies are exploring a number of potentially transformative approaches, including circulating youth factors, mitochondrial dysfunction, and the elimination of a specific cell type called ‘senescent cells.’ In our view, targeting these so-called senescent cells, which are believed to be the drivers of numerous age-related diseases, appears to be the most promising anti-aging approach explored thus far.” (Citi GPS, August 2018)
Shut up and take my money!
Here are a few ways some investors are taking part in the latest advances of anti-aging:
- Unity Biotechnology (UBX) is a start-up company that went public in May 2018, with financial backing from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. Unity is developing new drugs called ‘senolytics’ designed to target and eliminate senescent cells, with an initial focus on musculoskeletal disease, such as knee osteoarthritis, and opthalmologic degeneration.
- Acorda Therapeutics (ACOR) develops drugs to address neurological functioning in people with multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury. It is currently testing its products for use in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
- Prana Biotechnology (PRAN) is an Australian company focused on solving age-related neurodegenerative diseases and is developing treatments targeted at Alzheimer’s, Huntington disease, Parkinson’s.
- Allergan (AGN) is well known for its surface treatment of aging, such as BOTOX ®, JUVEDERM ® and LATISSE ®, but the company is also involved in research and treatments for retinal disease, Alzheimer’s, migraines, and numerous other age-related conditions.
- The Global X Longevity Thematic ETF (LNGR) invests in companies positioned to serve the world’s growing senior population through exposure to health care, pharmaceuticals, senior living facilities and other sectors that contribute to increasing lifespans and extending quality of life in advanced age.
Sounds great, what’s the downside?
The downside of any investment of course, is the risk that it will sink after you buy it. The biotech darlings of a bull market can be, well, unbearable, in the midst of a bear market. High growth, high potential companies are the often the fastest to crumble in a faltering economy where only the strongest balance sheets survive.
As we are now in a late stage bull market that is showing some signs of weakness, it becomes more important than ever to do your homework and ensure that the company you invest in for the long term has the fundamentals to support its own long term.
Disclaimer: This article is opinion only and may not be interpreted as investment advice. Neither the author nor GGF currently hold shares in any of the public companies mentioned.