Controversial genome pioneer Craig Venter has unveiled plans for a new company focused on "extending the healthy, high performance human life span".
Human Longevity, headquartered in San Diego, has been founded by Dr Venter, Robert Hariri and Peter Diamandis, with $70 million of funding from investors which include Malaysian billionaire KT Lim and the DNA sequencing market leader Illumina.
HL has already bought two of Illumina’s new top-of-the-range systems to sequence up to 40,000 human genomes per year, with plans to rapidly scale up to 100,000. The money raised will be used to build "the largest human sequencing operation in the world to compile the most comprehensive and complete human genotype, microbiome, and phenotype database available to tackle the diseases associated with aging-related human biological decline".
HL also hopes to be "leading the development of cell-based therapeutics to address age-related decline in endogenous stem cell function". Revenues will be derived from database licensing to pharmaceutical, biotechnology and academic organisations, sequencing, and development of advanced diagnostics and drugs.
Dr Venter said that “using the combined power of our core areas of expertise - genomics, informatics, and stem cell therapies, we are tackling one of the greatest medical/scientific and societal challenges - aging and aging-related diseases. He believes HL is "going to change the way medicine is practiced by helping to shift to a more preventive, genomic-based medicine model which we believe will lower healthcare costs. Our goal is not necessarily lengthening life, but extending a healthier, high-performing, more productive life span".
Like 'Celera on steroids and cocaine'
Dr Venter rose to fame in the 1990s as head of Celera Genomics, a private company which sequenced one of the first human genomes, which tried to sell its data and compete with the publicly-funded Human Genome Project. In an interview with National Geographic, the colourful entrepreneur described the new venture as "Celera on steroids and cocaine", saying that "the technology costs to sequence a genome are a tiny fraction of what they were then".
HL will go up against Calico, a recently-launched company focusing on aging and associated diseases set up by Internet search engine giant Google.