Investing in healthspan: A prescription for prosperity

a prescription for prosperity

The combined efforts of researchers, investors, and pharmaceutical and biotech companies have resulted in substantial progress in the treatment of major diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and genetic/rare diseases. Yet, the largest opportunity of all has thus far eluded the “precision medicine” approach. The fact is that 8 billion people urgently need a solution for unhealthy ageing.

Our world is on the brink of a silver tsunami. Rising life expectancy and declining birth rates are flipping population pyramids upside down across the planet, calling into question fundamental assumptions about healthcare and pension plans, the nature of productivity, and social norms.

This is not a niche problem. The global population aged over 60 will double to 2 billion in the next three decades, and 80% of these older people will be living in low- and middle-income countries. Globally, already nearly one in three people are living with multiple chronic conditions, and this number is expected to rise dramatically in the coming decades. Put simply, we are living longer, but we are not spending those extra years in good health - which is costing us all.

In pursuit of ‘healthspan’

We must urgently refocus our attention from simply extending lifespan to the pursuit of “healthspan”, which is how long we live in good health. There are some who misinterpret longevity as just a search for a so-called “Fountain of Youth”, and the sector has seen its fair share of charlatans peddling snake oil and false promises, but real progress is being made.

Innovative, credible science has steadily advanced in the halls of prestigious institutions such as Harvard, the University of California at San Francisco, the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, and the US National Institutes of Health. After decades of steady effort, we are ready to translate this growing understanding of ageing biology into transformative therapeutics that target the root causes of age-related diseases, including ageing itself.

In parallel, we are seeing increasing levels of funding with $6.2 billion invested in 2021 and a 77% growth in global investment from 2020 - 2022, according to data from Longevity Technology, signalling an upward trend in support for longevity science.

Time for a holistic, systems approach

Now, it is time to convert that knowledge into action. Progress in therapeutic discovery and development has been far too slow for our rapidly ageing world. While we continue to tackle the symptoms of ageing with incrementally better therapies, drug discovery has become both slower and more costly over time.

The number of new drugs approved per billion dollars spent on research and development has halved roughly every nine years since 1950, a perverse “inverse Moore’s Law”. We know that the journey of drug discovery and development from lab to patient entails crossing several “Valleys of Death”.

Further, there is evidence that research and development is becoming narrower, as much of the pharmaceutical industry’s innovative activity is focused on costly specialty, rare diseases, and “me too” drugs.

While treating singular diseases for individuals is undeniably important, it is time to take a systems approach and address this more holistically. We are seeing some movement here with pharmaceutical firms like Pfizer taking an active role in creating clinics designed to improve healthspan. We need to be bold and back the innovators who are prioritising prevention over prolonged treatment.

There is real momentum in this space, as early adopters begin to stream in. Healthspan-oriented therapeutics offer significant rewards for those with the imagination, courage, and vision to invest early. It has been estimated that increasing healthy life expectancy by one year would be worth almost $40 trillion in healthcare savings and productivity increases alone.

Investing in health, and healthcare, for all

In recent conversations with the investment community, the Hevolution Foundation has found that 97% of finance professionals stated they believe that healthy longevity investments can yield greater financial returns than traditional healthcare investments.

Consider the explosive growth of research in and improvement in care for cancer now vs 50 years ago. Cancer, as devastating as it is, affects a relatively small a small proportion of the population. Healthspan research is arguably where cancer research was 30 years ago and has the potential to reach everyone. We must pursue this opportunity and challenge with the goal of equity and widespread access. After all, what other health concern affects every human on this planet?

Healthspan is the single largest addressable health market globally. If approached with purpose, patience, and vision, the silver tsunami promises to yield a golden age of health, innovation, and prosperity, where everyone can thrive. It is a field that offers unprecedented opportunities for groundbreaking contributions to humanity.


  2. Research and Development in the Pharmaceutical Industry (
Dr William Greene
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Dr William Greene
26 December, 2023